Preparations for the 2020-21 season are underway as well even though the NBA’s Orlando clean site is just now seeing liftoff. At the start, NBA owners had planned a Dec. 1 start date for next season, however, reports say that if the end of the pandemic is in sight, the NBA could move the calendar back as far as a March start date as a way to accommodate fans in stadiums.
Per Alex Silverman of Morning Consult:
“An internal planning document obtained by Morning Consult outlines four scheduling scenarios the league is considering for next season, including one in which it would push the start of next season back to March if there is a path to a coronavirus vaccine or therapeutic treatment that increases the likelihood that its teams could host fans in their home arenas over the course of an 82-game schedule.”
Among the considerations around this potential plan are a potential overlap with the Tokyo Olympics, currently slated to begin July 23, 2021.
More from Silverman:
“Under the March-October scenario, the league would execute a rolling schedule release as opposed to releasing the entire schedule before the season starts as it would under normal circumstances. It would also aim to hold an All-Star Game at some point during the season.”
The NBA is also, according to the document, still considering the December to July schedule that had been initially announced. Other arrangements such as another quarantine bubble or neutral sites for teams based in cities with bad outbreaks, with Louisville (long considered a possible expansion city) just one option.
With the league taking a bath in terms of revenue for as long as they cannot safely host fans, expect a long delay until plans for next season are formalized. If the NBA and its players can agree on a cap-smoothing plan for this year’s free agency period and hold off on anything official for 2020-21 until there is more clarity surrounding vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, there may yet be a light at the end of the tunnel that allows the NBA to basically have this Orlando bubble be the only impact on the business during the pandemic. Between now and then, it’s a whole lot of ifs and maybes.