What you need to know about the NBA 2020-21 season

Wizards guard Russell Westbrook talks with head coach Scott Brooks, front, during a game Dec. 17, 2020, in Washington.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

What’s new for the 2020-21 NBA season during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

A shorter season, a new play-in tournament in each conference for the playoffs and a couple of rules changes. Here’s a closer look.

72-game season

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the longest season in NBA history for 2019-20, finishing Oct. 11. The NBA and its players’ union agreed to a 72-game season for 2020-21, 10 less than usual, beginning Dec. 22 and ending July 22 if there is a Game 7 of the NBA Finals. That allows two things: NBA players to compete in the delayed Tokyo Olympics and the league to move to its usual calendar for the 2021-22 season. Each team will play three games against their conference rivals and two games against teams from the other conference.


Play-in tournament

At the conclusion of the regular season, the postseason will begin with the seventh- through 10th-place teams based on winning percentages in each conference playing into the first round of the playoffs. The Nos. 7-8 teams will play for the seventh spot, while the loser of that game will have a playoff against the winner of the No. 9-10 teams for the eighth and final spot. Higher-seeded teams host each playoff game.

New rules

— The coach’s challenge, which was experimental last season, is here to stay. Of the 700 calls challenged last season, 308 (44%) were overturned.

— Rosters will be expanded on game day from 13 to 15 players.

From the expected load management to the unknown of a pandemic-stricken season with no bubble protection, the 2020-21 NBA season will offer unique challenges.

Dec. 21, 2020