A person with knowledge of the situation says the NBA’s players are planning to vote on whether they would prefer to start the coming season in December or wait until January, with that decision expected before the league’s board of governors meets to potentially formalize some plans on Friday.
The vote by members of the National Basketball Players Association will show how many prefer a 72-game season that starts on Dec. 22, or a season of perhaps 58 or 60 games that would start on Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 18, said the person who spoke Tuesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been publicly announced.
Among the issues: revenue. The NBA believes starting on Dec. 22 would allow for $500 million in additional revenue for the coming season, and the league’s primary television partners also want that start date in part to allow for the traditional Christmas broadcasts. Some players, however, have said starting in December is too soon for teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, who were in the Walt Disney World bubble until mid-October for the NBA Finals.
But a January start would mean less revenue, on the heels of a season where the league missed revenue projections by $1.5 billion and 14% of the regular season wasn’t played because of the pandemic — meaning players lost roughly the same percentage of their salaries.
“Honestly, there’s a level of compromise on each side,” Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic, that team’s player rep to the NBPA, said earlier this week. “You know, this has not been easy with everything that’s been thrown at the league and thrown at us just as people are trying to figure things out. So, there’s a level of compromise on both sides but we’re continuing to talk. … I just hope that we can get to the conclusion that works for everybody.”
The NBA and the NBPA agreed late last week to push back the date by which either party may opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement to Friday. In the interim, the league and the NBPA have continued working on amending the current CBA to allow for next season — all necessary moves considering the existing language on many topics such as free agency, an 82-game schedule and more is outdated because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Finalizing the parameters for next season quickly is a top priority for everyone. The draft is Nov. 18, free agency is expected to start shortly afterward and — if the season begins Dec. 22 — training camp would likely start around Dec. 1.
There are eight teams that have not played since the league shut down for the pandemic on March 11; only 22 went to the Disney bubble for the restart in July, but of those, just four — the Lakers, Heat, Boston and Denver — were still playing as late as mid-September. Many players around the league have been working out in recent weeks, with some gathering in Miami and Southern California for informal group sessions.