The NBA and NBPA held votes late this week to formally approve a return to the 2019-2020 season. While many of the logistics are still being negotiated, what we do know is that 22 teams will be present in Orlando at Walt Disney World, each playing eight more regular season games in the build-up to a normally formatted postseason. Due to the shortened season, the NBA has also approved the possibility of play-in games if the ninth seed in each conference is within four games of the top right spots.
We don’t know a whole lot more about the NBA’s return just yet, but we do have some tentative dates to keep track of. We will continue updating this list as more information becomes available.
June 15: Players located out of the country return to markets. As far as we know, no Lakers travelled internationally after the season was shut down.
June 21: All players report to their respective teams.
June 22: Coronavirus testing begins. This is the most crucial aspect of resuming the season. Players are expected to be tested every day as the league is attempting to only quarantine anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 (at a minimum of seven days) rather than shutting the league down once again. It is fair to wonder, however, how that changes if the virus spreads through the majority of any team.
June 30: Training camps begin in individual teams’ training facilities. All 30 teams have now opened their facilities for individual player workouts.
July 7: Teams travel to Orlando where they are mandated to stay within predetermined confines in order to minimize the risk of spreading Coronavirus. Family members will be allowed to join them only after the first round of playoffs, with only three relatives per player.
July 31: Regular season resumes. Each team will play two or three “preseason” tune up matches ahead of this date as they hope to regain their rhythm. When the season resumes, each team will play their next eight scheduled matches against the other 21 teams in the bubble. That will leave some teams (including the Lakers) short of eight games after the majority of squads have played theirs. While dates have not been set for these fixtures, the Lakers’ likely schedule will be the against the following teams: Rockets, Nuggets, Jazz, Jazz, Raptors, Pacers, Blazers, and either the Heat or Magic.
The abbreviated regular season is scheduled to last 16 days with five or six games being played each day. Every team is expected to play one back-to-back.
August 16-17 Play-in tournament games. At the end of the eight matches for every team, if the ninth seed in each conference is four or fewer games behind the eighth seed, they will be allowed to play for the final playoff spot. The eighth seed would only need one win against the ninth seed to advance while the ninth seed would need two wins. Therefore, each conference would have, at most, two play-in games before the start of the playoffs.
August 18: Start of the NBA Playoffs. The Lakers will likely face one of the Grizzlies, Blazers, Spurs, Kings, Pelicans, or Suns in the first round, assuming the Dallas Mavericks (and anyone above them) are safe from falling to the eighth seed. The first round, and the rest of the playoffs, are expected to proceed as seven-game series.
September 1: Start of the second round.
September 15: Conference finals start. The league initially considered seeding the 16 playoff teams regardless of the conference which might have given the Lakers an opportunity to make the Finals without facing either the Clippers or Bucks, the other favorites for the title. If the standings remain the same until the start of the playoffs, the Lakers would only face one of the Clippers or the Rockets (in the likely case that one would advance to the Conference Finals) in the Western Conference. Of course, there will probably be significant movement in the standings; the second through sixth seed are separated by just four games.
September 30: Game one of the NBA Finals. If the Lakers do make it this far, they will likely face a juggernaut Milwaukee Bucks team led by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
October 12: Game seven of the 2020 NBA Finals and the latest date the season could end.
October 15th: 2020 NBA Draft. The Lakers hold their first-round pick. It is their last first-round pick under their full control until 2026.
October 18th: Free agency begins. The Lakers’ expiring contracts are Dion Waiters, Markieff Morris, Jared Dudley, Dwight Howard and two-way player Kostas Antetokounmpo. Anthony Davis is expected to opt out of his contract but all reports point to him re-signing with the Lakers on a max contract, likely over five years. Other players that have opt-out clauses are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo. It’s unclear how those players will manage that decision given the economic impact of the league shutdown and how it could affect cap spaces and spending power.
November 10: Start of 2020-2021 training camp.
December 1: Start of 2020-2021 season. While all dates listed are still under discussion between the league and players’ union, the start of play for next reason – namely the quick turn-around – is seemingly under the most contention by the NBPA. The league, of course, wants to make sure it gets its major revenue from two of the biggest days of each season: opening night and Christmas. The union has told players that that date is “unlikely” to stand.
We will continue updating this story with additional dates or details.