February? March? Martin Luther King Day? When the 2021 NBA season will begin is an uncertain picture.
Adding to a flurry of reports in recent weeks, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (along with "multiple contributors") reported that a Christmas Day 2020 start date is on the table as owners convene to discuss scheduling options Friday. Marc Stein of the New York Times added via Twitter that a Christmas start is "gaining momentum," citing league sources.
Though Adam Silver has publicly said that an 82-game slate and some capacity of fans in the stands are goals for the 2021 season (and that the season likely won't start until 2021), the ESPN report said that "starting as quickly as possible, playing fewer than 82 games and not waiting for fans to be permitted to all league arenas" is being considered. So, too, are possible in-season tournament and play-in ideas to drum up interest and revenue, per ESPN.
Christmas, specifically, appeals because of its status as a "historically prime NBA showcase," though some owners are pushing for a mid-January start (i.e. MLK Day), according to ESPN.
Shortening the slate for 2020-21 from 82 games — Yahoo! Sports' Vincent Goodwill reported 72 is being discussed — could allow the league to get back on its typical October - June track for the 2021-22 season, and thus, out from under competition for eyeballs with such sporting phenomena as the MLB Playoffs, and NFL and college football regular seasons. It could also free NBA players up to participate in the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics next summer.
And while Dec. 25 feels like a breakneck turnaround with the Finals having just concluded Oct. 11, the league did begin free agency on Dec. 9 during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season that began on Christmas. That doesn't account for player fatigue, and the players association and league will have to agree on any scheduling plan, but something to consider.
Meanwhile, the league and players association are approaching a deadline to conclude negotiations to modify the current CBA on Oct. 30 — as the ESPN report notes, roughly eight weeks before Dec. 25. Silver, per ESPN, has told the NBPA that the league will give at least eight weeks notice before next season's start date.
Those talks will be worth monitoring with the draft currently scheduled for Nov. 18 and free agency presumably soon after (though unscheduled at the moment).
We know the Bulls have some fond Christmas Day memories in the recent past. Could they return to action after more than a nine-month layoff — with a new coach and likely top-five draft pick in tow — on that day in 2020?
Everything appears to be fluid. But it would be a welcome sight for the Chicago faithful.