Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA is proposing several changes to next season that includes a 72-game regular season, a play-in tournament and the likelihood of no All-Star Game and All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, sources said. The league is considering a two-week break at the midway point of the season, sources said.
Around the league, there's support to be playing again by Christmas, but a realization that it's going to become a chaotic challenge coming out of a Nov. 18 draft, free agency and training camps that would need to be open shortly after Thanksgiving. Without a bubble environment, the NBA will be facing positive coronavirus tests for players and staff.
Josh Lewenberg: The Raptors remain hopeful they’ll be able to host games in Toronto next season, I'm told. Several contingency options have been discussed internally, in case thats not possible, but nothing's imminent. Much is still unknown. Louisville was never on the table for the organization
Chris Mannix: A concern several team executives have expressed to @SInow about a late December start: Free agency. With training camps needing to open in early December, free agency would have to be crammed into a couple of weeks.
Chris Mannix: Something league officials are wary of: There have been predictions from health officials of significant COVID spikes over the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving. Coming back in a non-bubble environment may not be feasible in some parts of the country.
This would mean a return close to the NBA’s normal schedule, significant financial ramifications to start early, a potential finish before the 2021 Summer Olympics, and allow a window for stars to play in the Olympics, sources said. The NBA wants to continue to incorporate the play-in tournament that was utilized in the Orlando restart to determine the eighth seed in the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs, according to sources. ESPN first reported that a Christmas start and playing fewer than 82 games would be discussed on Friday’s call.
The National Basketball Players Association would need to sign off on any plan to start the season on Dec. 22. Around the NBA, league governors and executives — as well as star players — have become aware of the league aiming toward a start around Christmas Day, which is quicker than expected following an Oct. 11. end to the season. An increasing amount of those people also have warmed to the possibility due to the fact that it is in the best interest of returning to the NBA’s typical schedule, generating revenue.
“It may be too quick, but it also makes too much sense,” one high-ranking team official told The Athletic. The NBA suspended its season on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, restarted on July 30 and crowned the 2019-20 champion this month. The league had no players test positive for the coronavirus during the four-month resumption.
USA Basketball has begun reaching out to star players to gauge their interest in the Olympics, should the end date of the 2020-21 season provide ample time to prepare for the Games, sources said. The NBA continues to prefer in-market play for the 2020-21 season — instead of a bubble or multiple bubbles. The league is also looking into ways to reduce travel during the season, including possibly playing a team multiple times.
Shams Charania: The NBA is targeting Dec. 22 for the start of the 2020-21 season and a 72-game campaign that finishes before the ‘21 Olympics, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Marc Stein: The league had never taken a Christmas Day start off the table, but all signs coming out of the Bubble pointed to next season being pushed into 2021 Christmas is obviously a huge day for the NBA and its broadcast partners ... but MUCH must happen quickly quickly to preserve it
There has been some discussion among owners about starting as soon as Christmas Day to take advantage of that historically prime NBA showcase, sources said. Though numerous teams contacted by ESPN over the last several days weren't sure such a timeline was feasible. Others have been pushing for a start around Martin Luther King Day weekend in mid-January, sources said.
As with so much during the current COVID-19 pandemic, such plans are constantly in flux. That course could ultimately be still followed, but in recent days some governors have pivoted and begun considering the quicker timeline. Others continue to want to hold out for fans to be permitted into more arenas.
The league also continues to discuss tournament and play-in scenarios. The NBA has long-planned to use this upcoming 75th anniversary season to experiment with new revenue-generating formats.
Any agreement between the governors on a course for next season would have to be taken to the National Basketball Players Association for approval. The two sides have met several times since the conclusion of the Finals to discuss the financial and scheduling challenges ahead. Oct. 30 is setting up to be a key date. The NBA and NBPA agreed that day would be the deadline to complete ongoing discussions on modifications to the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 season, a date that requires the league or union to provide 45 days notice if either decides to terminate the CBA -- a scenario that sources continue to believe is a remote possibility.
It would also mark roughly eight weeks until Christmas. Silver has told the union that there would be at least eight weeks between an agreement and the formal starting of next season. Talks between the NBA and union have been productive on making the necessary financial allowances on 2020-2021 salary cap and luxury tax thresholds to account for the massive losses in revenues from the pandemic, sources said.
Ongoing talks are centering on increased escrow taken from players' salaries, sources said. The league and union are still awaiting full audits on the Basketball Related Income that accounts for the league's 51-49 revenue split with players. The NBA and NBPA are working on resetting of the 2020-21 salary-cap and luxury-tax numbers based upon those audits and financial projections for the next year. This allows for teams, agents and players to have more time to prepare for the financial realities of the pandemic's impact on the league. As the NBA Draft approaches on Nov. 18 -- and free agency expected to start soon after -- teams are anxious for the league to reach an agreement with the union and deliver them more certainty on the cap and tax bills.
March 5, 2021 | 11:12 am EST Update
Chris Forsberg: “The Celtics want Harrison Barnes …. Don’t listen to all the smoke and mirrors about all these other guys.” Sorting through trade rumors with @Abby Chin + @Brian Scalabrine, and why Barnes is more realistic than Grant or Vucevic. pic.twitter.com/QPLDXURyj2
Those numbers made Beal an All-Star Game starter for the first time in his career. It’s a great accomplishment, one that only 10 players receive each year. So, does that mean he has reached his peak? “I feel like I can get a whole lot better,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington. “I still feel like I haven’t really tapped into that elite, elite, elite level. I feel like I’m still on the way there. I wouldn’t say I’m crazy far off, but I feel like I’m pretty good and it’s picking up.”
Clearly, it is not money that motivates him. “I think it’s just who I am. I’m always my toughest critic. I always just push myself to be better than what I was before. It’s kind of like I’m just competing against myself in a way. I don’t have that enemy or guy around the league that I look up to and I want to be better than. Like, ‘oh, his numbers…’ I don’t have that,” he said. “I kind of go up against myself on a nightly basis, on a yearly basis. How can I be better than what I was before? What do I need to improve on? I have just kind of always had that since I was younger. That’s always kind of stuck with me.”
There are also Beal’s free throw numbers. He’s averaging career-high attempts (8.2/g) and shooting a career-best percentage (90.2%). Just three years ago, Beal was averaging 4.5 attempts and shooting 79.1 percent. “My goal coming into this year was to be 90 [percent],” Beal said. “I tell myself every time I step up to the line, I say 90. I just say 90 to myself. I’m shooting with confidence, stepping up and then knocking them down. They’re free points.”
In the earliest days of a decorated and illustrious career, before the 17 consecutive All-Star Games, the MVP honors in three of them, and before he became as much a fixture of the midseason extravaganza as the ball itself, LeBron James fell victim to the most plebian of NBA slights. He was an All-Star snub. “Still kinda irks me a little bit,” James said this week. “But I got over it.”
Coaches in the East voted on the rest of the roster. In later years, the league would give coaches the authority to fill out the roster as they saw fit, but in those days, they were still obligated to meet positional needs. Jamaal Magloire, who was averaging a double-double with New Orleans, made the one All-Star team of his career. Same for Metta Sandiford Artest (then Ron Artest) and Milwaukee guard Michael Redd. “Jamaal Magloire is an All-Star. LeBron James is not,” Hall of Fame basketball writer Marc Stein opined in a column for ESPN.com. “Nah, there’s nothing wrong with the rules the NBA uses for voting in its All-Star reserves.”
Reached by phone this week, Sandiford Artest said, “you could have made an argument for LeBron,” but the fact that he was a rookie and the Cavaliers were not in playoff contention made it tough. “I’m not going to say he didn’t deserve it,” Sandiford Artest told The Athletic, “because his first game against me he had 25 points. That was a lot of points against me. Nobody was scoring 25, let alone a rookie. When he did that to me, I’m like, this is insane. You literally gave 25 points to the best wing defender in the league.”