The longest season in NBA history is about to be followed by arguably its most intense and compacted offseason ever.
Beginning, like, now!
In just the next few days, all manner of NBA business that typically takes place across several weeks of summer will be jammed into the tightest calendar possible.
Teams can begin making trades Monday after noon Eastern time. The 2020 Draft will be held virtually Wednesday night. Free-agent negotiations can begin Friday at 6 p.m. ET, and actual signings can be consummated Sunday starting at noon.
All of this “wait and hurry up” green-lighting of key events from a normal NBA year was laid out in an extensive memo sent to teams, first reported Sunday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and obtained by NBA.com.
The tight turnaround from the end of 2019-20’s virus-protracted season to the league’s previously announced plans for 2020-21 required numerous date and pro-rating adjustments, tweaks to the collective bargaining agreement and no small amount of giddy-up in the NBA’s git-along.
Following the flurry of activity in the coming week, the league is planning to open training camps on or around Dec. 1. Preseason games would begin about Dec. 11, with the regular season set to start on Dec. 22.
That will be 72 days after the last game of the 2020 Finals, the Lakers’ 106-93 Game 6 clincher over the Heat in the Orlando bubble. With a similar time frame one year earlier, Opening Night in 2019 would have been held on Aug. 24.
Here are some other markers for the coming season:
* An “All-Star break” for players, without an actual All-Star Game, from March 5-10.
* The 72-game regular season ends May 16.
* Play-in tournaments for both conferences, May 17-21. Details and approval by the Board of Governors are still to come. But the No. 7 and No. 8 team on each side may meet, with the losing team facing the winner of a No. 9 vs. No. 10 game. The winner of that third game would secure the final playoff berth.
* First round of the playoffs would start on May 22, with conference semifinals beginning about June 7 and conference finals around June 22.
* The 2021 NBA Finals would take place July 8-22.
Anyone feeling adrift in a November without NBA basketball – or at least, NBA activity and headlines – could be sated in a matter of days. Word of the current “temporary transaction moratorium” being lifted Monday at noon was met almost instantly – or was it the other way around? – by a reported deal by the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire guard Dennis Schröder from Oklahoma City for wing Danny Green and the No. 28 pick in Wednesday’s Draft. (Per league rules, the trade is expected to be finalized after the draft, with the Lakers making the 28th selection on Oklahoma City’s behalf.)
Players’ decisions on their contract options all are due this week, notably as soon as Monday for Lakers big man Anthony Davis. Davis, who led the champion Lakers last season in scoring (26.1 ppg), rebounding (9.3) and blocked shots (2.3 bpg), is expected to decline the $28.7 million option for 2020-21 so he can sign a longer, more lucrative deal to stay in L.A.
Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum has a $27.1 million option deadline Monday, too, the Associated Press reported. Other player and team options are due Thursday.
An assortment of other dates and deadlines had to be updated for the shifted 2020-21 offseason and schedule, including contract guarantee cutoffs and the final days by which teams must use (or lose) trade exceptions. Golden State has a $17.2 million exception from its deal in February sending veteran Andre Iguodala to Memphis, and OKC has one worth $10.4 million from its July 2019 trade of Paul George to the Clippers.
Criteria for performance bonuses have been pro-rated to account for a 72-game regular season, down from the customary 82. Adjustments also have been made to limits on two-way players whose time is split between the NBA and the G League.
Previously, the NBA announced that the 2020-21 salary cap would be set at $109.1 million, with a luxury-tax threshold of $132.6 million. These were indeed “set” rather than calculated strictly off revenues from the recently completed season, to soften the financial hit from the coronavirus-driven hiatus.
The costs of the restart, the shift into summer and fall that affected TV ratings, and the need to play games with few or no paying customers all contributed to what has been estimated as a 10% decline in revenue to $8.3 billion.
The restart reportedly staved off what might have been another $1.5 billion lost had the season not been completed. And a pre-Christmas start to 2020-21 could save the league another $500 million to $1 billion compared to an opening in January or later.
Luxury tax liabilities will be adjusted according to the percentage shortfall in projected basketball-related revenue, an accommodation seen to help big-spending franchises while pinching some that controlled their costs for this offseason.
Accommodations also have been made with the National Basketball Players Association to the long-standing escrow system, through which the general player/team split of revenues gets adjusted each year. This year and for possibly the next two seasons, instead of 10% escrow, no more than 20% of players’ salaries will be withheld to account for revenue declines. The plan is to effectively “smooth” the losses over time, rather than absorb the pain of 2020 all at once.
Still to be determined for the coming season: the actual schedule, ways to reduce travel, any formal plans for fans or media to actually be in NBA arenas and the possibility that the Toronto Raptors might have to find a temporary new home for 2020-21. Current travel and quarantine restrictions preclude the league’s other 29 teams from crossing into Canada for Raptors home games.