Now, the league wants to begin Dec. 22.
Players, according National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, largely oppose the plan. A faction of players, including stars, prefer to wait until Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18).
But the NBA has reportedly indicated it could play just 50 games if starting starting that late. It’d be 72 games with a Dec. 22 start.
Lakers forward Jared Dudley:
Can’t play 50 games .. Thats a hard no for the players! Has to be a min of 72.. the real question is what change in a week? The league kept saying January January.. Everybody knew how big Christmas was and Olympics being late July months ago.. TV just mentioned it now?? https://t.co/JSQdY3sTXz
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) October 30, 2020
A 50-game season is undesirable for everyone. Owners and players split revenue about 50-50. In simplest terms: more games, more revenue.
But players – not owners – just spent lengthy stints in the bubble. Players – not owners – would have to face the physical and mental toll of resuming so quickly.
Owners can sit back and count the money.
So, it’s understandable players oppose such a quick turnaround. For many, starting a 72-game season Dec. 22 would be exhausting. (For another group of players, the layoff has already been too long.)
Unfortunately for players whose teams just made deep playoff runs, a prompt start is the way to maximize revenue.
For too long, the NBA aimed to get fans in arenas next season. The coronavirus pandemic makes that incredibly difficult. As that reality set in, the league shifted its priority to television. That means playing a separate opening night, playing on Christmas and finishing before the Olympics.
This should have been the plan all along – or at least communicated as a potential option to players. It is jarring to expect a later start then suddenly get told to report to work sooner.
But, again, that is the way to make the most money.
It’s also a way to get the following season back on track – which will both maximize the money of that season and get players their summers off again.
As much as the league deserves criticism for setting one expectation then defying it, players might have a tough time rejecting the Dec. 22 72-game plan.