Report: NBA targeting December 22nd start date for 72-game season

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – FEBRUARY 15: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference at the United Center on February 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

It’s only been 15 days since the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Championship inside the bubble, but as the league’s schedule has been dismantled by COVID-19, the Lakers and the rest of the NBA teams now face a short turnaround towards the upcoming season. That was always going to be the case, as the league was always going to want to start no later than February, depending on whether or not they’d want the 2021-22 season to possibly be affected. It appears now from multiple reports that the NBA will, in fact, try and start as early as possible with Shams Charania of The Athletic saying December 22nd is their target start date. This will allow for the league to capture games on the day with the highest ratings of any regular-season day, Christmas.

This follows additional reporting from Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe, and Brian Windhorst from ESPN as well as Marc Stein from The New York Times. All parties concurred that the NBA was striving to have basketball at the end of December, with Charania being the only one to report the 22nd date.

Here are key highlights of the reporting as it impacts the Lakers and the rest of the league for a potential late December start:

  • A shortened season amounting to 70-72 games seems to be the consensus here, which will allow for the league to finish in anticipation for the 2021 Olympics which will allow NBA players to play for Team USA. It would also hopefully allow for the NBA to get back to their normal October – June schedule for their regular season and playoffs in the 2021-22 season.
  • ESPN reporting indicates that although some owners have been pushing for a Christmas Day start for added revenue, others throughout the league have been pushing for a Martin Luther King Day weekend start in mid-January.
  • Wojnarowski reports that the NBA will be considering keeping the play-in tournament that was popular for the conferences’ respective 8th seed in the Orlando bubble.
  • He also reports that, due to the NBA trying next season without a bubble, the NBA may use a baseball-esque scheduling system. Wojnarowski uses the example of a team traveling to New York and playing its two road games against the Knicks and another against the Nets.
  • Wojnarowski also reports that the 2021 All-Star Game may be canceled due to everything moving around, although no decision has been made on the subject.

Of course, we are at COVID-19’s will in terms of whether or not fans will be at any of these games. It seems doubtful. This will be an extremely quick turnaround for these Lakers, and should be especially concerning given the fact that the Lakers are one of the older teams throughout the league. It may mean some added “load management” type strategies in the early parts of the season.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on any more reporting as it pertains to when the 2020-21 season will start.

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