It's been in the tea leaves for some time, but now it's moving closer to reality. The 2020-21 NBA season may not come until 2021.
On Friday, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported a number of key dates related to the 2020-21 season based on separate calls the league held with its owners and general managers on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
The two biggest takeaways:
- The league reportedly informed the owners that the 2020-21 season will start "no sooner than" Dec. 25 (and whenever the start date ends up being, the league will provide an eight weeks notice)
- The league reportedly stated a preference for playing next season in respective markets, as opposed to in another bubble
The latter bullet seemed in the tea leaves for a while too. Playing out a full, 82-game-plus-playoff slate in a bubble would be a big ask of players, staff and other personnel — especially considering the lumps that have come with putting on the 2019-20 restart (see: Danuel House's unceremonious exit from the bubble).
How the league manages to make in-market competition work remains to be seen. The NFL kicked off Thursday night without a uniform standard for fans being allowed in arenas — currently, six of the league's 32 teams are planning to host games with significantly limited capacity (and, of course, outside). Arrowhead Stadium had roughly 17,000 fans in attendance for the Kansas City Chiefs' home opener against the Houston Texans.
The NBA would like to be able to get fans back in the seats. Commissioner Adam Silver has said publicly they would even consider pushing back the start of the 2020-21 campaign to February or March of 2021 if that seemed possible.
But one would assume that whenever the NBA proceeds, it will be in a unified front. That's the precedent they set in formulating the 2019-20 restart, at least.
With the Conference Finals soon tipping off, the deadline to modify the current CBA looming on Oct. 15, and the draft reportedly likely to be pushed to mid-November — plus, Delete 8 workouts starting in just over a week — the league continues to have its hands full, even before getting to its plan for 2021.
The closer we get to the offseason, though, the more intense the spotlight will become.