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NBA pushes back plans for April vote on schedule changes

MIAMI (AP) — The NBA no longer expects the league’s board of governors to vote in April on whether to make significant changes to the league’s schedule in time for the 75th anniversary season in 2021-22.

The changes remain a real possibility. The new twist, as detailed in a memo the NBA sent to teams Friday, is that much of the feedback the league received on the ideas for change suggested that more time is necessary to implement them correctly.

In the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, the league told its teams that it is now working to develop a more comprehensive proposal and plan. The board will be updated at the April meeting and more talks are expected then, but barring a major change no vote will occur.

The league sent a detailed plan to teams last month, suggesting changes such as a 78-game regular season, an in-season tournament for all teams and a reseeding of the playoffs when the field is cut to the final four clubs.

The reseeding after two rounds of the playoffs was already a hot-button issue around the league, since it raised the potential for daunting travel for teams and essentially would eliminate the tradition of conference finals.

But the in-season tournament also prompted scheduling concerns. The leagues proposal that was sent to teams last month mapped out a scenario where the tournament would begin with group stage games on Nov. 24, 2021. Group play would run through Dec. 11, with quarterfinals on Dec. 13 and 14, semifinals on Dec. 16 and a championship game on Dec. 18.

That comes close to Christmas, one of the biggest days on the NBA calendar. In the latest memo, the NBA hinted that feedback suggested that schedule wouldn’t be optimal — saying the tournament would need to be “carefully timed to ensure appropriate protection” for such events as Christmas Day games.

These potential changes should be considered on a more comprehensive, multiseason basis, providing sufficient lead time for optimal planning and monetization, the league said in Fridays memo to teams.

The plan, until now, was for the board to vote on whether to make the changes for 2021-22, with an option of extending them into the 2022-23 season.

Commissioner Adam Silver, since at least 2016, has talked about an in-season tournament, a format that is customary in European soccer. The NBA also has commissioned studies of how fans feel about potential changes. Among the findings were that 60% want a shorter regular season, 68% are interested in an in-season tournament and 75% are interested in a play-in tournament to decide the final spots in the 16-team playoff field.