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Report: NBA discussing 72-game season starting Dec. 22, finishing before Olympics

Lakers center JaVale McGee and Clippers star Kawhi Leonard

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22: JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers look on during a game on October 22, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA is reportedly considering playing fewer than 82 games next season.

How many exactly? Maybe 72.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23.

For perspective, the lockout-shortened 66-game 2011-12 season began on Christmas and ended June 21. So, a Dec. 22 start would leave ample time to finish before the Olympics.

But numerous questions remain:

  • How much appetite do NBA owners have for accommodating the Olympics? There was opposition when the Olympics caused even less disruption to the NBA. Now, owners are considering reducing games – revenue opportunities – for the Olympics?
  • How will the NBA start in late December, play 72 games and begin the 2021-22 season in mid-October? Back to the 2011-12 precedent. After a Christmas start and 66-game season, the NBA began the following season Oct. 31. Next season could include fewer off days and/or the 2021 offseason could be shortened in order to start 2021-22 on time.
  • How quickly can teams and players be ready for next season? First, the league and union must finish haggling over financials and set a salary cap. Players must also prepare physically after historically short and long offseasons, each of which present challenges. (A common worry – free agency – can be done quickly. In 2011, free agency opened Dec. 9 and the season started on Christmas. There’s even more time now.)

Something easy to figure: Why Dec. 22 rather than Christmas? Opening night attracts major attention. Christmas attracts major attention. But a combined opening day/Christmas wouldn’t attract double the attention. Better to have two premier dates on the schedule rather than one.

Of course, the same logic dictates it’s better to play 82 games than 72. Which is why I wouldn’t take it for granted this plan gets approved without modifications.