Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Friday that the league is considering a 72-game season that would close before the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled for July 23-Aug. 8.
The 72-game proposal would put the league back on track to play a full 82-game slate the following season, beginning in October 2021 and running through June 2022, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Zillgitt reported Friday that there was no formal proposal but that "getting this done within the next two weeks is paramount" because of the Nov. 18 draft and free agency.
Before the NBA Finals, Commissioner Adam Silver reiterated his view that the league could not start any earlier than Christmas and that he was eyeing a January opening (h/t Zillgitt). But Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press reported a December start would bring in roughly $500 million more after a season that produced a shortage of $1.5 billion in projected revenues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league canceled 171 regular-season games after it suspended play March 11. According to Reynolds, it cost nearly $200 million to operate the bubble when the league restarted with 22 teams at Walt Disney World, and the absence of fans contributed to the financial loss. Reynolds reported the league's Dec. 22 plan includes the possibility of fans in attendance, but that "would hinge on how a particular market is faring against the coronavirus at that time."
If the plan is approved and training camps open Dec. 1, it will present an interesting reality for draft picks, who will have two weeks before they join their teams in officially sanctioned activities. In 2019, the NBA draft was held June 20, with the league year opening 10 days later before training camps opened Sept. 28 and Oct. 1.