NBPA's Michele Roberts Says Dec. 22 Start Date 'Defies Common Sense'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2020

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2014, file photo, Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Roberts planned on being in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World for a few days. Three weeks, at the most. She never left. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Susan Walsh/Associated Press

It is quite clear where National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts stands on potentially starting the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22. 

"Given all that has to be resolved between now and a Dec. 22 date, factoring that there will be financial risks by a later start date, it defies common sense that it can all be done in time," Roberts told Shams Charania of The Athletic. "Our players deserve the right to have some runway so that they can plan for a start that soon. The overwhelming response from the players that I have received to this proposal has been negative."

Charania previously reported the league was "targeting" a Dec. 22 start date to finish a 72-game season prior to the 2021 Olympics, especially after the league office told the Board of Governors starting then could generate more than $500 million in additional revenue.

Dec. 22 is less than two months away, and starting on that date would mean squeezing the entire offseason into a small window.

The draft is on Nov. 18, and free agency would start after that in such a proposal. What's more, training camps would begin around Dec. 1, although this could pave the way for the 2021-22 season to be under a somewhat typical schedule with an October start.

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Charania noted Friday is the deadline for either the league or players association to serve notice to end the collective bargaining agreement, although both sides can extend negotiations.

"The union and the players are analyzing all of the information and will not be rushed," Roberts said. "We have requested and are receiving data from the parties involved and will work on a counterproposal as expeditiously as possible. I have absolutely no reason to believe that we will have a decision by Friday. I cannot and will not view Friday as a drop dead date."

Roberts stressed the importance of health and safety for the players, which underscores how quick of a turnaround the Dec. 22 start date would be in the middle of a global pandemic.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat just finished their six-game NBA Finals on Oct. 11, and the sheer reality that the league paused its entire season in March, created a bubble-like environment at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and finished its entire playoffs was both an admirable achievement and surely an exhaustive ordeal for all involved.

Danny Green told The Ringer NBA Show that Los Angeles Lakers teammate LeBron James may be among those who would not show up at the start of the season if it did begin on Dec. 22.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported a "substantial faction of players and star players [are] pushing" for a Martin Luther King Day start date on Jan. 18 with free agency starting on Dec. 1.

In terms of the actual schedule, Charania noted the league is looking for flexibility amid the pandemic and plans to release it in two halves.