No one could have predicted how the 2019-20 season was going to play out given the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, but the NBA and NBPA’s plan to finish it in a bubble on the Walt Disney World campus worked to perfection.
The Los Angeles Lakers were crowned champions, an astonishing accomplishment when considering how much work went into ensuring the players, team staffs, and guests were kept safe from the virus.
The league and player’s association deserve all the credit in the world for how they pulled this off, showing the sports world that games can happen so long as proper measures and protocols are put in place.
However, the two parties must now turn their attention to the 2020-21 season. The 2020 NBA Playoffs ran until the beginning of October, but plans are being discussed about a potential start around Christmas Day.
The late December start is gaining traction, which would mean that offseason events like free agency would need to happen soon and according to Marc Stein of New York Times, teams are already bracing for potential start dates in late November:
Some teams, I'm told, are preparing for NBA free agency to begin as early as Nov. 20 or Nov. 21 — 48 to 72 hours after the Nov. 18 NBA Draft — if the plan to start the 2020-21 season Dec. 22 goes ahead. Further clarity is expected by week's end …
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 27, 2020
The quick turnaround time would be overwhelming for front offices who are already swamped with evaluating draft prospects in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft. While far from optimal, they seem to be the only reasonable days as training camp would be slated to begin at the start of December.
The Nov. 21 or 22 target is especially tough on the Lakers and Miami Heat as they would only be about seven weeks removed from their thrilling NBA Finals clash. Los Angeles in particular has several free agents they need to address, making their upcoming calendar chaotic to say the least.
Why Christmas Day plan makes the most sense
Although it is unfortunate the Lakers and Heat will not have ample rest after grueling playoff runs, the NBA’s insistence on starting near Christmas is probably the best course of action. The current plan calls for a 70- to 72-game season, and starting late in the year gives more breathing room when it comes to scheduling.
The most important part, however, is that it keeps the schedule for the 2021-22 season intact. The 2020-21 season was always going to be a weird one in terms of timing, so making sure future seasons are not impacted is the main priority.
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