Revenue, and the potential loss of it, is a major sticking point when it comes to when the 2020-21 NBA season will start. The league itself is interested in running a 72-game regular season schedule that begins right before Christmas (Dec. 22), while the players are reportedly pushing for a Jan. 18 start date, which would add some additional time off to the end of what will be a truncated offseason. 

On Friday, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to extend the deadline for CBA negotiations until Nov. 6. It was the fourth time that the two sides have agreed to postpone the deadline and give themselves more time for discussion. The league suffered major losses when last season was suspended and then ultimately resumed without fans, and it’s still not known what fan attendance will be like next season. With this in mind, the league wants to play as many games as possible next season, and it fears that delaying the start of play until January could cost the league a huge chuck on money: between $500 million to $1 billion, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This could lead to a steep drop in player salaries. 

From Wojnarowski: 

And without assurances that the pandemic will allow for fans in arenas this season — and projections that their absence could cost the league more than $4 billion in lost revenue — the NBA fears delaying the start of the 2020-21 season until January could cost the league an additional $500 million to $1 billion in revenue losses next season and beyond, sources said.  

The consequences for the league’s players would be a steep drop in salaries due to the collective bargaining agreement’s 50-50 revenue split between the league and players. 

At this point though, the players are still not sold, with union director Michele Roberts telling The Athletic that the “overwhelming response” to starting in December has been negative. While money is the main issue, it’s not the only one. Starting before Christmas would mean cutting the official offseason to a dramatic degree. The 2020 NBA Draft is set for Nov. 18, with free agency starting sometime shortly thereafter. With camps opening up in early December, that would give front offices and free agents an extremely short amount of time to figure out deals. 

In addition, the earlier start date would mean teams that went on deep playoff runs wouldn’t get their usual amount of time off. Danny Green of the defending champion Lakers hinted at some of his veteran teammates simply not being ready by Dec. 22, which throws another wrench into the plans. Would the league want to force an early start if it means a bunch of stars sitting out more games than usual early in the season?

All told, there are some serious issues for the league and the players to figure out. With such significant financial incentives to start before Christmas, it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s what ends up happening, even if everyone isn’t thrilled about it. An official announcement from the league should come in the near future. 


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