The NBA is back: League, NBPA reach deal on start of next season, salary cap, more

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The NBA will be back on Dec. 22.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association reached an agreement in principle on adjustments to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, settling details such as the start of the season and free agency, the two sides announced late Monday night. The agreement calls for:

• Free agency to open on Nov. 20, with players able to sign contracts on Nov. 22.
• Training camps will open Dec. 1.
• The NBA season will start on Dec. 22.
• It will be a 72-game season.
• Games will be played in teams home arenas, but with a focus on limited travel (teams will travel to a city and play a team multiple times, more like a baseball series).
• The details on when the transaction window will open — allowing for trades, as well as players opting in or out of deals — are still being finalized, but it will be two or three days before the Nov. 18 NBA draft.
• The NBA salary cap and luxury tax will remain flat at $109.140 million and $132.627 million, respectively.
• While the luxury tax remains flat, the luxury tax bill teams pay will be reduced by the “percentage BRI decreased from initial projections during the 2020-21 season.” Meaning if league revenue is 25% lower than expected next season, tax paying teams will get a bill reduced by 25%. That could be huge for some tax-paying teams.

• In the next couple of years, the salary cap will increase by a minimum of 3% and as much as 10%, depending on league revenue.
• The player paycheck escrow amount — the percentage of players’ salaries put into an escrow fund to balance the agreed-upon split of basketball-related income (BRI) between the owners and players — will stay at 10% next season. If the players share is higher than that — it almost certainly will be — then the players’ escrow percentage will jump the next two years, up to 20%, to balance the books.

Not all players were thrilled with the fast turnaround from the October end of the season to the Dec. 22 start of the season but the potential loss of up to $1 billion in revenue this season and into future seasons motivated both sides to get a deal done. The bottom line is the league’s television partners wanted games on and before Christmas, and for the NBA playoffs not to go up against the Tokyo Olympics starting July 23 of next year, and money talks (especially with the league and those partners about to start discussing a new television deal not far into the future).