Sources: NBA discussions include Christmas start

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    Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print.

The NBA’s board of governors is meeting Friday and is discussing possible changes to plans for the 2020-21 season, including starting as quickly as possible, playing fewer than 82 games and not waiting for fans to be permitted to all league arenas, sources told ESPN.

There has been some discussion among owners about starting as soon as Christmas Day to take advantage of that historically prime NBA showcase, sources said. Numerous teams contacted by ESPN over the past several days weren’t sure such a timeline was feasible. Others have been pushing for a start around Martin Luther King Day weekend in mid-January, sources said.

Just last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “The goal for us next season is to play a standard season, 82-game season and playoffs. In home arenas, in front of fans.”

As with so much during the COVID-19 pandemic, such plans are constantly in flux.

That course could ultimately be followed, but in recent days, some governors have pivoted and begun considering the quicker timeline. Others continue to want to hold out for fans to be permitted into more arenas.

The league also continues to discuss tournament and play-in scenarios. The NBA has long planned to use this upcoming 75th anniversary season to experiment with new revenue-generating formats.

Any agreement between the governors on a course for next season would have to be taken to the National Basketball Players Association for approval. The two sides have met several times since the conclusion of the Finals to discuss the financial and scheduling challenges ahead.

Oct. 30 is setting up to be a key date. The NBA and NBPA agreed that day would be the deadline to complete ongoing discussions on modifications to the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 season, a date that requires the league or union to provide 45 days’ notice if either decides to terminate the CBA — a scenario that sources continue to believe is a remote possibility.

It would also mark roughly eight weeks until Christmas. Silver has told the union that there would be at least eight weeks between an agreement and the formal starting of next season.

Talks between the NBA and union have been productive on making the necessary financial allowances on 2020-21 salary-cap and luxury-tax thresholds to account for the massive losses in revenues from the pandemic, sources said.

Ongoing talks are centering on increased escrow taken from players’ salaries, sources said. The league and union are still awaiting full audits on the basketball-related income that accounts for the league’s 51-49 revenue split with players.

The NBA and NBPA are working on resetting of the 2020-21 salary-cap and luxury-tax numbers based upon those audits and financial projections for the next year. This allows for teams, agents and players to have more time to prepare for the financial realities of the pandemic’s impact on the league. As the NBA draft approaches on Nov. 18 — and free agency expected to start soon after — teams are eager for the league to reach an agreement with the union and deliver more certainty on the cap and tax bills.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon contributed to this story.

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