The NBA and NBPA are currently at odds on how the 2020-21 season will unfold. Commissioner Adam Silver originally acknowledged that an early 2021 start was the most likely outcome, but because the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has yet to slow down, it seems those plans have changed.
Now, Silver and the NBA have pushed for a Dec. 22 start with the idea that arenas full of fans will not be permitted in arenas for the foreseeable future. The loss of gate revenue means the league will need to recoup that money via televised games, hence the urgency to start the proposed 72-game schedule as soon as possible.
A mid-January start with 72 games would bleed into mid-July, when the 2021 Olympics are slated to start, a situation the NBA would like to avoid in order to keep ratings up. Players have pushed back on this proposal, but all signs seem to indicate that the NBA will get the start date they desire.
Aside from the 2020-21 season’s tipoff, the two sides are also negotiating the implementation of another play-in tournament, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN:
The play-in tournament proposal has coalesced around the structure ESPN first reported was gaining traction in early 2018: a four-team tournament among the Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10 seeds for the final two playoff spots in each conference. The tournament would begin with No. 7 hosting No. 8, and the winner locking into the No. 7 spot. Meanwhile, No. 9 would face No. 10, with the winner advancing to play the loser of the 7-versus-8 matchup for the No. 8 seed, sources have told ESPN.
After the success of the play-in tournament during the Orlando bubble, it is no surprise that Silver and the league office are looking to make this a permanent fixture. The tournament would also be another avenue to recouping some of those financial losses as well as adding another layer of intrigue to the current playoff format.
The expansion of the seventh and eighth seeds is interesting in that it allows more teams an opportunity to make the postseason and dissuade tanking. However, teams with sizable leads in the standings may push back on this proposal in order to protect their spots.
Modifications to play-in tournament
The play-in tournament held in the bubble only featured the eighth and ninth seeds, but was triggered because the Memphis Grizzlies were within four games of the Portland Trail Blazers.
In the new proposed format, the winning percentage of the teams will not factor whether or not the tournament is played. This could be an impediment in talks, but given the current circumstances it seems more likely than not it will be approved.
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