NBA eyes December start, 72-game season

NEW YORK (AFP) – The NBA is looking at starting a 72-game 2020-21 season in December and finishing in time for players to compete at the Tokyo Olympics according to multiple reports on Friday.

The Athletic and ESPN, citing unnamed sources, said the league told team owners in a Friday conference call about the plans, which would require approval by the players union by the end of October.

After the playoffs ended on October 11 due to a COVID-19 shutdown last March and a July restart, the league would have only a 72-day break before a December 22 restart, three days before the NBA’s usual plethora of December 25 game offerings, The Athletic reported.

The move would allow greater income and more games compared to a January restart and allow the league to crown a champion and leave a window for NBA talent to play for homelands in the Tokyo Olympics, where the United States (US) team would seek a fourth consecutive gold medal.

A play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in each conference, an idea developed due to the pandemic-hit season, would continue, according to the reports.

The National Basketball Players Association must agree upon any deal regarding when to start, with ESPN reporting there had been talk about a mid-January start on the Martin Luther King Jr holiday and staging more games later when chances might be better for spectators to attend.

The NBA had no players test positive for COVID-19 during its stay in a quarantine environment at Orlando in its restart.

USA Basketball has started asking about player availability for the July 23 start of the Tokyo Olympics to allow time to select players and prepare for the tournament.

The NBA would prefer to play in home arenas rather than a bubble and is looking at playing a team multiple times on a trip to reduce travel.