NBA players agree to starting new season on Dec. 22

Lakers' Rajon Rondo holds the trophy after winning the NBA Championship.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It was less than a month ago that LeBron James stood in the center of a largely empty arena, the Larry O’Brien trophy cradled in his right arm.

“I can’t believe you cheated on me for the last four years,” James said. “What is wrong with you?”

The honeymoon phase for the rekindled relationship could be ending sooner than James and the Lakers expected.


They’ve got work to get back to.

The NBPA, the union that represents the league’s players, approved the NBA’s plan to begin a 72-game season on Dec. 22, saving more than $500 million in revenue for a league that’s had its finances upended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agreement came after a vote of player representatives.

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“3.5 weeks. Get ready bros,” Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted.

The plan returns the league closer to its typical schedule. The league and the NBPA need to still agree on COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming season, which will almost entirely be played in home markets (the same quarantine rules that pushed the Toronto Blue Jays to Buffalo, N.Y., will likely force the Raptors to relocate).

“The Board of Player Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has tentatively approved a start date of December 22, 2020 for the 2020-2021 NBA season and a 72-game schedule,” the NBPA said in a statement Thursday night. “Additional details remain to be negotiated and the NBPA is confident that the parties will reach agreement on these remaining issues relevant to the upcoming season.”

The Lakers final moments in the bubble, which center JaVale McGee captured for a video blog he updated throughout the restart, will be less than two months old by the time the team reports for training camp at the start of December.

There were pockets of NBA players who wanted a longer offseason — even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said a December start seemed unlikely — but the financial concerns of an even further abbreviated season were too great to extend the offseason.

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Besides, some league officials would say, eight teams haven’t played since March and more than half the league was done playing by Sept. 1.

“Good to see the light right now,” Hawks guard Trae Young, one of the players who hasn’t played since March, tweeted.

The NBA and the NBPA still need to agree on some financial considerations, including the percentages of salaries that will end up in escrow account.

The league also still needs to announce the offseason calendar with dates for options to be picked up, for trades to be consummated and for free agency to begin.