The 2019-20 NBA season came to a close on Oct. 12 when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Now the 2020-21 season could begin in a matter of weeks. The league and players are reportedly one vote away from starting the season on Dec. 22.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA's board of governors and players' association will hold separate meetings on Thursday to discuss the possible season start in December. Sources told the outlet that the agreement would also result in a shortened 72-game season. The National Basketball Players Association will take a formal vote of the team player representatives on Thursday, following a week of conference calls to discuss a "salary escrow for players in the range of 18% for the next two years."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke with reporter Bob Costas in late September and said that the next slate of games would not start until "at least" Jan. 1. He had previously wanted to target Dec. 25 for the first tip-off of the season but said that this was becoming increasingly unlikely. Christmas is one of the two signature regular-season days for the NBA. The second is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Jan. 18, 2021.
The situation has now changed, and the season could start in late December. If the league and players approve the decision on Thursday, there will be a quick turnaround that opens the door for other activities. The NBA Draft would take place on Nov. 18, while training camps would begin on Dec. 1. The NBA will also lift a moratorium and reopen the league for trades before the draft upon the agreement to start the season.
One reason for the quick turnaround is that the proposed start date and shortened schedule would provide a considerable amount of revenue for the players and league alike. Wojnarowski cited sources when reporting that the league believes a Dec. 22 start that includes Christmas Day games on television and the shortened 72-game schedule that comes to a close before the postponed Summer Olympics in mid-July "is worth between $500 million and $1 billion" in short- and long-term revenues.
If the league and players agree to the restart, there will be immediate questions about fan attendance. The season restart took place in the NBA bubble in Orlando, resulting in no money from ticket sales. The league's basketball-related income was down $1.5 billion last season. Most cities still have strict regulations about mass gatherings that would similarly inhibit games in 2020-21.