We’ve become accustomed to NBA seasons spanning across two calendar years. That, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, likely won’t be the case next season.
“My best guess is that even though, as you said, it’ll be the ’20-’21 season, that that season won’t start until ’21,” Silver said Tuesday in a CNN interview with Bob Costas. “We said a week ago or so that the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year, but the more I’m learning — even listening to (NIAID director) Dr. (Anthony) Fauci this morning — I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January.”
Despite the plan to start much later than usual, Silver said the NBA still aims to play a full 82-game season and also play games in home arenas and in front of fans.
“There’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing, for example,” he said. “Would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings? Will there be other protections? Some of the things we’re learning in Orlando currently, at the campus down there. And also clearly learning a lot from other sports — what baseball is currently doing, what football is doing. … So there’s a lot of new information out there in the marketplace that we’re looking to absorb. But the goal is to play a standard season.”
So far, the NBA’s bubble and protocols to protect against COVID-19 have been effective at preventing an outbreak. Having teams travel across the country would present additional challenges, as would having fans in attendance. As Silver acknowledged, there’s a lot to learn about what’s feasible and safe.
A 2021 season starting in January or February would presumably overlap with the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, which could be a tricky issue the NBA has to address.
While there’s no formal date yet for free agency, the NBA draft is set for Nov. 18. The Sixers have a league-high five picks (21, 34, 36, 49 and 58).