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With the NBA’s owners proposing to start next season around Christmas, should the players view it as an early holiday present? Or would they like to return the gift? “I don’t know what I think yet,” Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “We are in the throes of discussing it and in the throes of evaluating what it means in terms of the revenue-related issues that have been raised. Frankly, we’re also spending some time trying to get information on what this means in respect to player health.”

No decisions have been finalized on next season and talks with the National Basketball Players Association remain ongoing on many matters, including the financial parameters for the coming year. Those talks, especially on the money issue, would have to be concluded before any real decisions about next season are made. The NBPA has not made any final decisions on how it wants to see the league proceed, either. But this plan, starting in December and ending in June, would get the 2021-22 season — virus-permitting — back to normal, with 82-game slates starting in October.

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 hasn’t been decided whether the NBA can implement a full 82-game schedule, especially with an emphasis on getting some level of attendance in areas and upholding the recently-developed standards concerning player rest, cutting down on the back-to-backs and heavy travel. The focus for next season, primarily, is getting things finished in a reasonable amount of time for the draft, free agency and rest in the summer of 2021 for a traditional mid-October start.

There’s also figuring out a schedule, whether to play at least some of next season in another bubble-type situation or in home arenas, if fans will be permitted to attend and if so how many – along with plenty of other matters. There’s also the quest to make everyone happy, which probably won’t be possible. There are eight teams – Golden State, Minnesota, Atlanta, New York, Cleveland, Charlotte, Chicago and Detroit – that have not played since March and are now assured of going at least nine months without a real game.

A second GM then chimed in on the same theme, sources said, echoing the lack of travel and additional rest leading to better play and helping even out the competition. Sources said a league official on the call then brought up the concept of teams heading into cities to play a potential series of games — fly into a city and have two teams play each other in two games over a short time span. The idea, which several GMs considered akin to a baseball-like homestand, was discussed in an effort to reduce the mileage teams might have to fly during the regular season.

In terms of scheduling, and in potentially doing baseball-like homestands, the league would also face the obstacle of juggling arena dates when concerts and other non-NBA events are being slated to be held, though it’s unclear in the current climate if such events will even take place in the near future. And multiple GMs noted that the league is heading into financial unknowns because it’s still yet unclear when teams will be able to fill their arenas with fans to make up for lost revenues.

Aldridge: Teams were increasingly leery about conducting a draft in five weeks. COVID-19 remains in charge. The NBA couldn’t possibly be business as usual when large swaths of the country still wouldn’t allow teams to conduct training camps, with their current restrictions on gatherings. Moreover, the league is desperate to get at least some fans back into NBA buildings at some point next season. Whether that means an 82-game season or something shorter remains uncertain.

NBA All-Star Weekend 2021 — scheduled for Feb. 12-14, 2021 in Indianapolis — will not be held as scheduled, an NBA spokesperson told Fieldhouse Files. “Given the uncertainty surrounding the schedule for the 2020-21 NBA season, we and the Indiana Pacers informed our hotel partners in Indianapolis that NBA All-Star 2021 is unlikely to take place on Presidents’ Day weekend so they could make other arrangements. More information about next season’s schedule, including NBA All-Star, will be announced at a later date.”

The NBA officially awarded Indianapolis its second All-Star weekend on Dec. 13, 2017. Since that time, they have created a host committee of more than 300 volunteers, provided grants up to $50,000 to 21 different youth-serving organizations across Indiana and renovations are ahead of scheduled at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indy first hosted the event in 1985. It was expected to have an estimated economic impact, based on previous host cities, of around $100 million.

League embracing play-in format going forward?

If teams believed they could force a play-in series by creeping within four games of the No. 8 seed, suddenly the final month of the season would become more meaningful. “I do see this as something we would embrace going forward,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Sports Illustrated. “As you know I’ve been talking about it for a while. We saw this as an opportunity to institute a form of it. I’m not sure if this would be the exact format going forward. But this is something we’d like to see stay.”

The NBA has told teams that the plan remains to start on Dec. 1, but pushing back that date would require a level of confidence that a delay would ultimately result in the reopening of arenas to the public. If so, the NBA would be willing to hold back the start — perhaps even months. An opening night of Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Jan. 18 — is a consideration. February and March are realistic too if a combination of vaccines, therapeutics and rapid-response testing for COVID-19 could contribute to the possibility of public gatherings.

There’s hope for vaccines, but the league has prepared teams for the reality that mass distribution would be unlikely for a full year, sources said. For now too there’s a skepticism about the reliability of rapid-response testing. They’re hopeful that advances in the technology could facilitate ways to get fans into arenas — even if it means less than capacity. Teams are already modeling options that include a few thousand fans to buildings filled closer to capacity.

Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA’s priority remains to get fans into arenas next season. Regional pods for extended periods are among brainstorms, but preference would be that those are finite in length, sources said. For example: A month or two inside, a month out. Early in planning; everything’s on table.

The first exhibition games of the NBA restart will go a little more quickly than usual. The NBA is tweaking the rules for those initial matchups, going with 10-minute quarters instead of the usual 12 minutes. The change is for several reasons — among them, not wanting to overly tax players’ bodies after they went more than four months without games, and because some teams do not yet have their full rosters at Walt Disney World because of coronavirus and other issues.

Exhibitions start with a four-game slate Wednesday and continue through July 28. Each team will play three exhibitions, and the last two for each club will have the traditional 12-minute quarters. Plans call for all 33 exhibitions to be televised by some combination of local TV, national TV, NBA TV or NBA League Pass. The league is still working on some of the specifics for the first games, including whether to give teams the option of wearing uniforms or practice gear.

The exhibitions will be helpful in breaking up the monotony of practice, Denver coach Michael Malone said, but he stressed that player health will come before anything else in those games. “The No. 1 thing for me is can we get through these three scrimmages healthy and not getting guys put in a position where they’re overworked, playing too many minutes and getting hurt,” Malone said. “I think the vast majority of the 22 teams will approach it the same way.”

The NBA is closing in on signing off on a second “bubble” in Chicago for the eight teams that were not invited to play in Florida, enabling them to participate in a mini-training camp and subsequent games against other clubs with a target date of September, sources told ESPN on Thursday. The details are still being hammered out, and teams continue to push for an alternative plan that would enable them to hold mini-camps within their local markets and to explore the idea of establishing regional sites where teams could scrimmage against each other.

Mark Cuban pushing to start the season on Christmas Day

Cuban: “I hope for the NBA and I hope not for other sports, for obvious reasons. I’ve always been a proponent of starting on Christmas Day because that’s when we go to broadcast television. Whether it’s Christmas Day or possibly a little earlier, because part of the thought process is hopefully there’s a vaccine by then, and I’m one of these people that’s very confident that there will be. The science geek in me just reading it thinks that it’s highly likely that there will be. Now the question is the distribution of it and the more time we buy for distribution of the vaccine, the more likely when we start next season there’s an opportunity to not just have some fans but more fans than we otherwise might expect.”
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October 30, 2020 | 12:04 pm EDT Update
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Storyline: James Harden Trade?