With the 2020 NBA Finals officially on the books following the Los Angeles Lakers’ title-clinching defeat of the Miami Heat, league executives and team leadership from around the association have shifted their focus to the 2020-21 season. Per Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN, the NBA’s board of governors is meeting Friday and will be discussing possible changes to the upcoming campaign, including an earlier than expected start date and a reduced game schedule.
According to the report, there has been discussion among owners about tipping off the new year on Christmas Day. There has also been talk of resuming play without fans being allowed to attend, as was the case when the league opted to complete the 2019-20 season in a bubble campus in Orlando, Florida, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previous reports indicated a desire held by both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and ownership groups alike to delay the start of next season until such a time when spectators would be able to attend live games.
Last month, Silver stated the goal for ’20-21 was “to play a standard season, 82-game season and playoffs” that would be contested “in home arenas, in front of fans.” To that end, some had been pushing for a start during Martin Luther King Day weekend in mid-January.
However, the ongoing coronavirus crisis has forced the commissioner’s office and owners to be fluid in their thinking with regard to the best way forward.
There has been a surge recently in COVID-19 case numbers and reported deaths that may warrant a more cautious approach in relation to reintroducing fans to arenas. Per the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has averaged more than 61,000 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection during the last seven days. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 new deaths were reported Friday.
The league is also reportedly discussing various tournament and play-in scenarios, as it already planned to use its upcoming 75th anniversary campaign to experiment with new, revenue-generating competitive formats.
Regardless of what is decided in the coming days, any agreement between the NBA’s governors regarding 2020-21 would have to be presented to the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) for approval. The two sides are said to be meeting regularly to discuss the financial and scheduling challenges that lie ahead. Per ESPN‘s sources, negotiations between the NBA and the players union relating to the adjustment of salary cap and luxury tax thresholds to account for massive revenue losses due to the pandemic have been productive.