Now that the NBA has voted on a 22-team plan in a bubble on the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando for its return to the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs, more of the attention can begin to shift on the months ahead.
With the league three months removed since its suspension due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it had already been deemed a forgone conclusion that the key offseason dates would be pushed back significantly. Fortunately, reports indicate that the NBA now has a plan in place to finish out the season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, beginning July 31.
Although the 22-team format presents a majority of the league with a chance to continue pursing their championship aspirations, the rest are left waiting to officially shift gears toward the 2020 NBA Draft and free agency. Meanwhile, it appears teams like the Los Angeles Lakers now have an idea of how long it will take to finish their run for the franchise’s 17th title.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the latest possible date for a Game 7 of the NBA Finals would land on Oct. 12:
As the NBA models a 22-team format for the season’s proposed resumption beginning July 31 in Orlando, a timeline shared with teams as a last possible date for a Finals Game 7 lands on Oct. 12, sources told ESPN.
The update is not too far off from the initial reports that some teams were expecting the NBA Draft to land in September with free agency starting in the fall. The NBA has since indicated the Lottery will take place Aug. 25, with the Draft being held Oct. 15.
Although the league may have determined a new timetable, it is safe to assume that nothing is set in stone given the strong possibility that some adjustments will continue to be made.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City Thunder team owner Clay Bennett has already addressed the negative impact that such a lengthy hiatus would have on small-market teams, specifically those that were not included in the NBA’s return-to-play plan.
Not only has the ongoing pandemic dealt a crushing financial blow due to lack of ticket sales, but the extended time away from the court could significantly impact their player development. As a result, there have been talks regarding the possibility of holding mandatory summer training camps and regional fall leagues of four-to-five teams to help bridge the gap.