With each conference final in the 2020 NBA Playoffs set to go at least five games and the NBA Finals not scheduled to begin until Sept. 30 at the earliest (that will be pushed back if the Nuggets-Lakers Western Conference Final series goes to a Game 7), talking about next season might seem a bit strange.
But with the postponed 2019-20 NBA campaign going into October, what would have been the 2020-21 season has to be pushed further back on the calendar. A typical NBA season starts in late October with training camps beginning roughly a month beforehand. That’s obviously not going to happen with the teams playing in the NBA bubble needing a proper offseason to recuperate.
The general assumption was that the NBA would start the 2020-21 season on Christmas Day, which has become the unofficial start of the season for most fans anyway with the league scheduling several nationally televised showcase games on the holiday. But commissioner Adam Silver said that it’s now more likely that the next NBA season will tip off in January.
Silver revealed the league’s plans, though didn’t make an official announcement, during a CNN panel discussion on Tuesday. The information was part of a wide-ranging interview with Bob Costas (now a CNN contributor) covering the NBA bubble that was created in Orlando after the league shut down for five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The remarks regarding the 2021 season can be seen in the video below at the 21:03 mark:
“We’ve said a week or so ago that the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year,” Silver told Costas. “But the more I’m learning, even listening to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci this morning, I continue to believe that we’ll be better off getting into January.
“The goal for us next season is to play a standard season […], 82-game season and playoffs. Further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans. But there’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing, for example, would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings.”
If the intention is to play a full 82-game season with playoffs, that could push the 2021 campaign into late August or early September. That would likely affect the start of the following 2021-22 season as well.
But the bigger headline is that such a schedule would also prevent NBA players from participating in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The Tokyo Games are scheduled to be played July 23 through Aug. 8, when the NBA regular season could be concluding. Additionally, the delayed schedule would prevent NBA players from participating in qualifying rounds for the Olympic tournament.
Silver seemed to indicate that NBA players could still play in the Olympics, but those athletes might come from non-playoff teams.
“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver said. “And, obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics for other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through.”