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NBA, players trying to finalize Dec. 22 start for new season

LeBron James, with the NBA Finals MVP trophy, and the Lakers are likely to start defense of their title on Dec. 22.
(Associated Press)

The NBA’s Board of Governors will hold a meeting Thursday while players around the league continue discussions on what’s rapidly considered an inevitability — a Dec. 22 start to the 2020-21 season.

The financial realities have outweighed a desire among players and front offices for a more prolonged offseason. But the hope of some to begin the season in mid-January appears to be too catastrophic for bottom lines already damaged by the near-certainty of fanless arenas for the foreseeable future.

By playing a 72-game schedule beginning Dec. 22 instead of opting for 60 games beginning in January, the NBA is looking at more than $500 million more in revenue, according to people with knowledge of the situation who are not authorized to speak publicly.

To keep the league’s salary cap from cratering, players will also sacrifice part of their salaries, which will be put into escrow accounts.

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The NBA and the NBPA, the union that represents the league’s players, agreed to postpone a negotiating deadline to Friday to alter the current collective bargaining agreement. The players must agree to the NBA’s Dec. 22 plan for it to be enacted.

Some particulars need to be finalized, but the consensus among league executives is that free agency will begin soon after the Nov. 18 NBA draft. Nov. 20 is a date some executives are preparing for as the official start of free agency.

A look at what to expect this week in NBA negotiations, from when the season will start to how many games will be played.

Training camp could open as soon as Dec. 1.

That means the Lakers would get less than two months of rest before beginning their quest to defend their NBA championship.

They’ll be doing so in an environment completely different than the one left behind in the Orlando, Fla., bubble, one in which the realities of COVID-19 will be much harder to mask. The expectation is that the league will have to build in time for game postponements caused by outbreaks of the virus.

The plan is for the NBA to play games in home arenas with an added emphasis on limiting travel.

“I think we’re learning that it can be done, that you can strike a balance between public health and economic necessity, and that’s what we’re seeing in this country,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.


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