The start of the 2020-21 NBA season is right around the corner.
NBA players on Thursday voted to approve the league’s plan to start the season on Dec. 22 and take advantage of playing games on Christmas Day and increase potential revenue.
Teams will play a 72-game schedule, and the season will finish before the start of the scheduled Tokyo Olympics in the summer. Training camps are expected to open in early December.
Owners and players still have several issues to resolve, including salary cap and luxury tax amounts and the start of free agency.
The National Basketball Players Association confirmed the vote in a statement later Thursday night and said "additional details remain to be negotiated and the NBPA is confident that the parties will reach agreement on these remaining issues relevant to the upcoming season."
NBPA STATEMENT ON THE 2020-2021 NBA SEASON START DATE AND SCHEDULE
The 71-day turnaround between the end of last season and the start of next season amounts to the fewest days between the finish of one season and beginning of the next in NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
But eight teams haven’t played since March, when the league suspended its season when Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, six teams haven’t played since mid-August and another eight teams haven’t played since late August or early September.
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COVID-19 has altered the sports landscape and forced leagues and teams into unusual schedules.
For the two teams that reached the NBA Finals — the champion Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat — it is a quick turnaround, but for financial and logistical reasons, the league and, ultimately, players decided the December start is better than late January.
The Lakers and Heat will return to the court just over two months after finishing the NBA Finals. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
Starting in December and playing on Christmas and during the holiday week could be worth about $500 million in TV revenue, sponsorship and limited ticket sales — a significant amount considering the league projects less revenue from smaller fan attendance in 2020-21.
There are other TV and timing considerations, too. The league wants to get back on its October-June schedule so players and staff have a majority of the summer off and so the NBA is not competing with other sports and the divided attention of viewers in the heart of the summer. The NBA also didn’t want to play games during the Tokyo Olympics when TV ad dollars are directed toward the Games.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZIllgitt.
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