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Things you need to know about the 2020-21 NBA season

Here are some common questions and answers about the format, rules, scheduling, structure and health protocols of the 2020-21 NBA season.

From NBA.com Staff

The 2020-21 season will feature a Play-In Tournament with team with the 7th-highest through the 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced on Nov. 9 that they’ve struck a deal on rules for the 2020-21 season, which will start on Dec. 22. On November 10, the NBA’s Board of Governors  approved the amended Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2020-21 by a unanimous vote, allowing the 2020-21 season to begin. The NBA announced the structure and format of the 2020-21 season, including a playoff Play-In Tournament on Nov. 17.

In anticipation of the new NBA season, here are some common questions and answers about the 2020-21 NBA season.


Q: When does the 2020-21 season begin and end?
Dec. 22 is the start date. The end of the 2020-21 season is tentatively scheduled for May 16.

Q: When did training camps open? When was the preseason?
Individual player workouts ran from Dec. 1-5 with Media “Week” taking place during the same time frame. Group player workouts went from Dec. 6-10 and the preseason ran from Dec. 11-19. In the preseason, each team played a minimum of two and a maximum of four games as part of the NBA’s 49-game preseason schedule. The game schedule for the 2020 preseason is available here.

Q: How many games will each team play in 2020-21?
Each team will play 72 regular-season games, which is 10 games fewer than in a typical, 82-game NBA season.

Q: What does the 2020-21 schedule look like?
The schedule will be released in two segments, with the First Half of the schedule coming around the start of training camp and the Second Half of the schedule coming out during the latter part of the First Half. For now, the plan is for each team to play three games against each intraconference opponent (42 total), and two against each interconference opponent (30 games).

Q: How will the Play-In Tournament be structured?
The Play-In Tournament, which will take place after the regular season and before the first round of the playoffs, will include the teams with the seventh-highest through the tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference. For further information on the Play-In Tournament, click here.

Q: What are the Key Dates for the 2020-21 season?
• Dec. 1-5: Individual player workouts and Media “Week”
• Dec. 6-10: Group player workouts begin
• Dec. 11-19: Preseason games
• Dec. 22 – March 4: First Half of regular season
March 5-9: All-Star break
March 10-May 16: Second Half of regular season
March 25: NBA Trade Deadline
May 13-15: Class of 2020 Hall of Fame Enshrinement
May 18-21: Play-In Tournament
May 22-July 22: 2021 NBA Playoffs

Q: Is there a way to see a breakdown of the schedule for 2020-21?
Yes, the 2020-21 regular season opponent matrix for each NBA team is available here. Full team-by-team schedules for the first half of 2020-21 are here.

Q: What are some of the safety protocols for 2020-21?
• Daily testing of players and staff began in advance of individual workouts beginning on Dec. 1 and will continue going forward.
• Occurrence of independent cases (not spread among players or staff), or a small or “expected number” of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the season.
• Anyone who tests positive will have two routes to return to work: go 10 days or more after the first positive test or onset of symptoms, or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing.
• Any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, must wait 10 days and then be monitored in individual workouts for an additional two days.
• Team traveling parties will be limited to 45 people, including 17 players, as they make their way around the country to play a home-and-road schedule in NBA arenas.
• An anonymous tip line will be made available to report possible violations of safety protocols.

Q: When was the All-Star break and did it include NBA All-Star 2021 in Indianapolis as planned?
On Nov. 25, the NBA and Indiana Pacers announced that the All-Star festivities originally scheduled for Feb. 12-14, 2021 will now be held Feb. 16-18, 2024. The NBA All-Star break took place from March 5-9.

The 2021 NBA All-Star festivities were held in a one-day event at State Farm Arena on March 7. That day’s events included the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk as well as the 2021 All-Star Game.

Q: When did free agency open for the 2020-21 season?
Negotiations with free agents began at 6 p.m. ET on Nov. 20, with signings permitted starting at 12:01 p.m. ET on Nov. 22. That is a quicker window than usual for free agency in the NBA, which typically has about a week spanning the start of talks and the beginning of signings.

Q: When did the NBA G League resume in 2020-21?
The G League announced in January that 18 teams, including 17 NBA G League teams and G League Ignite, would take to the court in February at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. The top eight teams will advance to a single-elimination playoff.

Q: When was the 2020 NBA Draft?
The 2020 NBA Draft was held on Nov. 18.

Q: What about the 2021 NBA Draft?
On March 29, the NBA announced that NBA Draft 2021 presented by State Farm® will take place on Thursday, July 29, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The first round will be televised by ESPN and ABC, and the second round will air on ESPN. Here are some key dates for the 2021 NBA Draft process:

• The NBA Draft Combine will take place June 21-27.
• The NBA Draft Lottery will take place on June 22 on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET.
• The deadline for an early entry player to apply for this year’s NBA Draft is Sunday, May 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
• The deadline for an early entry player to withdraw from the NBA Draft is Monday, July 19 at 5 p.m. ET.
• The 2021 NBA Draft will take place on July 29.

Q: How is the salary cap affected for 2020-21?
The salary cap and tax level will remain unchanged. The cap was $109.14 million this past season, with the tax level at $132,627,000. In subsequent seasons of the CBA, the salary cap and tax level will increase by a minimum of 3% and a maximum of 10% over the prior season. Teams’ tax payments will be reduced in proportion to any basketball-related income decreases.

Q: How will the 2020-21 season affect basketball-related income (BRI)?
A new system will be used to ensure the parties’ agreed-upon split of basketball-related income (BRI).  In the event player compensation were to exceed the players’ designated share in any season, necessary salary reductions beyond the standard 10% escrow would be spread across that season and potentially the following two seasons, subject to a maximum salary reduction in any season of 20%.

Q: Will Toronto play any games in Canada this season?
The Raptors announced in mid-February that they would play their entire home slate of games at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.

Q: Will fans be in attendance for games in 2020-21? 
Details on fan attendance for 2020-21 is being released team-by-team, which you can keep track of here.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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