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NBA’s reported goal next season: 82 games, in market, with fewer fans, reduced travel

Adam Silver restart

SAITAMA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 08: NBA commissioner Adam Silver attends the pre-game press conference at Saitama Super Arena on October 8, 2019 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)


The NBA bubble looks like a one-hit-wonder.

While the NBA’s restart bubble in Orlando has worked and allowed games to take place, it’s not how the league wants to move forward. When the NBA returns next season — which is not happening before Christmas, and sources told NBC Sports is more likely to be in February — the goal is not to do it in a bubble format.

Instead, the hope is to do it in-market, with reduced fans and reduced travel. To start to get things closer to a typical season.

All that was told to teams through calls with owners on Thursday and GMs on Friday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Everything is in flux still for the next NBA season, including the salary cap, which has yet to be set.

Already the 2020 NBA Draft has been pushed back to Nov. 18, with the start of free agency delayed as well. While Christmas was mentioned as a potential start date, there is a strong push from some in ownership to wait until February or later, allowing a chance for more games with fans in the seats. Fan attendance accounts for 40% of NBA revenue, Adam Silver has said.

There are challenges with the later start. For one, the Tokyo Olympics will take place next July — with dozens of NBA players expected to compete on the huge international stage. Would the NBA use an NHL-style Olympics break in the season? If so, the NBA season could run so late the league struggles to get back on a preferred schedule for the 2021-22 season.

Whenever the season tips-off, owners want to play a full 82-game schedule after taking a financial hit this season due to the coronavirus. And they want as many fans as they can have in the building for those games.

Team general managers have noted an uptick in the quality of play in the bubble and think the reduced travel has something to do with it. They have discussed the idea of a homestand schedule — teams would stay home to play a team a couple of times in a row, reducing travel — but that creates its own challenges.

None of this is set yet. Adam Silver will be patient, gather as much information as he can, and not make a decision until he has to. As he has done throughout this process.