Rumors fly, but not even NBA is sure when next season will begin in 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci listens during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 Capitol Hill on Wednesday in Washington.
(Graeme Jennings / Associated Press)

As the NBA continues to put the finishing touches on its 2020 season inside the bubble, uncertainty about next season continues to have key people in NBA circles left to guess at when the 2021 season will begin.

The league set its draft for Nov. 18, and Wednesday announced plans for the pre-draft process, which include virtual and in-market evaluations. But as with all NBA plans in the COVID-19 era, it’s subject to change.

Earlier this week in an interview with CITIZEN by CNN, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the start of next season would almost certainly push into the next calendar year.

“My best guess is that even though as you said it’ll be the 2021 season that that season won’t start until ’21,” Silver said. “We said a week ago or so that the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year. But the more I’m learning even listening to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci this morning, I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January.

“The goal for us next season is to play a standard season to your — other part of your question 82 game season and playoffs. And further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans, but there’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing for example.”

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The desire to play in front of fans is key in the minds of owners who have seen ticket and stadium revenue dry up. According to those with knowledge but not authorized to speak, both with the NBA and its players believe another significant amount of time spent in a bubble is a non-starter.

“No way we’d ever agree to it,” one veteran player told The Times.

After being eliminated by Denver in the Western Conference semifinals, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard told The Times that he was hearing next season would begin in March. Other players believe the season could start in February, possibly around Feb. 14 — the current scheduled date of the 2021 All-Star Game.

“There’s a lot of new information out there in the marketplace that we’re looking to absorb,” Silver said. “But the goal is to play a standard season and incidentally when we went into our planning of this current season we played a bit of an unusual finish to the regular season, but it was very important to the players and to the league and the teams that we play our standard playoffs which is what we’re in the process of doing now.”