The NBA’s restarted conclusion to the 2019-20 season is underway, but the uncertain start to the 2020-21 season is already on the horizon. A report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski showed that several options are in play for the NBA’s future plans.
First, Wojnarowski points to the idea that the league will focus on a science-driven approach when defining expectations for the 2020-21 season. As of now, the new season is set to start on Dec. 1. According to the report, the NBA could push that date back if data suggests that fans could return to arenas later in the season.
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.
Wojnarowski went on to reveal that the NBA is considering plans that would account for the possibility that certain areas of the country could allow fans back into arenas.
The NBA will consider playing games in practice facilities that are more cost-effective and more easily repurposed for television, sources said. Another idea: What if some markets could house fans, but others can’t? That has opened a conversation about neutral-site games. NBA teams could move operations to other league cities — or more likely, non-NBA markets — that could allow for paying customers.
Regardless of the optimistic proposals that involve the possibility of fans in the stands, it appears that NBA is strongly considering a re-tooled approach to the current bubble atmosphere that has proved successful in Orlando.
This time, ideas center on regional sites and windows of participation that would extend a month for teams, sources said. After that, teams would go home and train — perhaps for two weeks — and move onto the next regional bubble against a new pod of teams. Orlando is a consideration, and Las Vegas — a finalist for this summer’s restart — would reemerge as a possible site too, sources said.
Wojnarowski’s report goes on to cover how the Olympic schedule in the summer of 2021 presents a possible hurdle to the NBA’s prospective schedule. You can read the full story at ESPN.