When the NBA’s timeline came out with next season starting on Dec. 1, there was a lot of rolling of the eyes and the questioning of the timeline. There’s a segment of the NBA world that wants games to start on Christmas Day or close to it, but the league pushed for Dec. 1 so they could end by very early July, allowing NBA players to take part in the Tokyo Olympics next summer (starting July 21).
Count Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban in the Chrismas Day group.
Cuban told BaD Radio on Sportsradio 96.7 FM/1310 The Ticket in Dallas he wants the later start because it will mean more people in the building for games (hat tip the Dallas Morning News).
“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.”
There is one way to start on Christmas and still end by early July: Shorten the season. Play 66 or 70 games, which would allow time for a full playoffs (seven games each round) and still be done in time for players to join their national teams for Tokyo.
That’s not happening. After taking a bath this season due to the coronavirus (and to a much lesser extent, the NBA’s spat with China), NBA owners have pushed for a full 82 game season next year to recoup the money. Because the players and owner split league revenue, the players want those games, too. There will be a full 82 next season.
Which means if the NBA starts later, they are going to have to compact the schedule — more back-to-backs, and four-games-in-five-nights — to make it all fit. Which is likely what happens for a season or two.
If the December start works well — and the ratings for a late June/July Finals are strong — then expect the schedule change to come up again in the next CBA negotiation. For the short term, much like the end of this season in Orlando, the league is just trying to find something that works. The best of the bad options.