It’s done: The NBA comes back on December 22

AP – It’s official: The NBA is coming back on December 22.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced on Monday night that they’ve struck a deal on rules for this coming season, setting the stage for what will be a frenzied few weeks before games resume.

Teams will play a 72-game schedule, which will be revealed in the coming weeks. The league said a new system will be used to ensure that the split of basketball-related income continues, one of the many details that had to be collectively bargained with the union because the current agreement between the sides had a great deal of language that needed reworking because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Negotiations with free agents will be allowed to begin at 6pm on November 20, with signings permitted starting at 12.01pm on November 22 — an extraordinarily fast window for the NBA, which typically has about a week spanning the start of talks and the beginning of signings. But with training camps this year beginning on December 1, both sides evidently feel there isn’t a need to draw out the process any longer than necessary.

Many rosters could be considerably reshaped by then, with trades likely to be permissible again in the coming days — the exact details there still being worked out — and the NBA draft set to take place on November 18. Player and team options likely will be settled around that same time. Free agency starts two days after the draft, with around 100 players set for unrestricted status.

File photo shows a security guard standing near a basketball arena inside the NBA bubble at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. PHOTO: AP

The salary cap and tax level will remain unchanged. The cap was USD109.14 million this past season, with the tax level at USD132,627,000. The real numbers will be affected by the shortened schedule — last year’s numbers were based on the standard 82-game season, a threshold that won’t be reached this year.

The salary cap for 2021-22 is guaranteed to rise somewhere between three per cent and 10 per cent, the league said, which means it’ll be somewhere between USD112.4 million and USD120.1 million.

The league’s board of governors will vote to finalise the deal, which is a formality. NBA general managers met yesterday to discuss matters.

Meyers Leonard, a free-agent-to-be who spent this past season with the Miami Heat and served as the team’s player rep to the NBPA, said he had some concerns about getting all the logistical matters completed in time for a December 22 opening night. He resumed his offseason workouts on Monday after he and his wife took a 4,000-mile tour-bus trip arranged by Coors Light from Miami to Los Angeles with many stops along the way.

“Without knowing all the ins and outs, December 22, from a money standpoint, you play more games, you play your Christmas games, it probably makes sense,” Leonard said. “But there’s a lot of logistical things that I know cannot be easy. And the discussions that are being had are very dynamic and very difficult conversations.”

There are countless other issues to work out, such as all the health and safety protocols now that games won’t be played in the safety of a bubble and teams will be travelling to various cities once again.

Players were tested daily in the bubble, and nobody tested positive because of the very strict protocols. It’ll be much tougher to avoid a COVID-related issue with the league back to some sort of normalcy this season.