From the moment the NBA began its push toward opening the season on Dec. 22, with a Dec. 1 training camp start, several teams resisted. Too soon, they said. Not enough time between the end of last season and the beginning of the next.
Well, those dates are expected to stand and could be confirmed as soon as Thursday evening. The initially proposed January start died because neither the players nor the board of governors were comfortable sacrificing the additional four weeks of revenue.
The Warriors are good with this. Really good. They’ve already had eight months to read or work out, to binge on their favorite TV shows or connect with family and friends, so they’ve always liked the December start.
“I've taken advantage of the time, really, but I'm also ready to go,” coach Steve Kerr said over the weekend. “I can't wait to start practice. We all kind of feel that way. When I say, ‘we all,’ I mean ‘organizationally.’ I'm sure the Lakers and the Heat aren't really ready to start camp yet.
“But we are ... we’re ready to roll.”
Of course, they are. The Warriors are well into the longest offseason in franchise history. They haven’t played a game since March 10, haven’t had a full-squad practice, with everybody relatively healthy, in 19 months -- back when Kevin Durant was on the payroll.
Of course, they are ready. Each member of the 30-plus Club at the core of the roster -- Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson -- has offered glimpses of his work in the gym. Each looks fit and eager.
The shutdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is a blessing to the bodies of Curry, Green and Thompson. Curry and Green are refreshed from five consecutive nine-month seasons, and neither has to look far for motivation. Thompson has had 16 months to undergo ACL surgery, complete rehab and get back on the court. He’d like to erase a few doubts.
The Warriors haven’t had such a healthy roster since early in the 2019 postseason. They haven’t been this healthy and refreshed in more than two years, dating back to October 2018 when Damian Jones, Alfonzo McKinnie and Jonas Jerebko were on the opening-night roster.
No doubt they’d love to play the Los Angeles Lakers next month. They’d be delighted to go to Los Angeles to face a team barely two months removed from a six-game NBA Finals victory over Miami. The Lakers and Heat will have had the shortest offseasons in league history, as much as eight weeks between Game 6 of The Finals and the opening of training camp. Even if players on both teams show up on time, their medical/training staffs will be exceedingly busy.
Thus, the immediate reluctance of those teams, and a few others, to move the start from January to December. But the revenue factor was big enough for all teams to entertain the quick turnaround.
The union-league negotiation was a matter of finding the right balance, according to ex-Warrior Andre Iguodala, the Miami Heat wing and current first vice president of the NBA Players Association.
“We’re trying to get a good feel for the full body of players and giving them an understanding of what the climate looks like, all the different scenarios,” he told ESPN on Wednesday. “What it looks like starting in December? What it looks like starting in January?
"But our No. 1 concern is player health, being in the COVID-19 environment and also that quick turnaround.”
A normal NBA offseason can range from more than 5.5 months for non-playoff teams to 3.5 months for teams in The Finals. With the stoppage and restart of the 2019-20 season, every team will have had at least five months off in 2020. That’s being taken into account, according to league sources, with the Dec. 22 proposal.
So, we’re likely looking at a 72-game season, which would end in late May, with the postseason going deep into July – just ahead of the tentative starting date for the 2021 Summer Olympics.
Meanwhile, there’s the Nov. 18 draft, in which the Warriors hold the No. 2 overall pick, followed a few days later by free agency, during which they are expected to be active.
The league’s calendar will be mercilessly compressed in the two weeks between the draft and training camp, followed by a three-week runup to the season opener, for which the Warriors should be optimally primed.