By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The 2020-2021 National Basketball Association (NBA) season is now reportedly set to accommodate the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics after previous doubts over whether the sport’s top stars could represent their nations at the Games.
According to The Athletic and ESPN, the new NBA season is due to start in December – around two months after the conclusion of the 2020 NBA Finals – and will finish in time to allow players to compete in Tokyo.
There will be a reported 72-game season, 10 less than the usual 82, after sources said the league told team owners in a conference call yesterday (October 23) about their plans, which could be implemented after approval from the players union at the end of the month.
The last NBA season was heavily disrupted because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced a shutdown from March to July after several players tested positive for COVID-19.
The NBA Finals concluded on October 11 – four months later than the 2019 NBA Finals, which the Toronto Raptors wrapped up on June 14.
There is set to be a break of only 72 days between the last game of the previous season and the first of the new season, which could see the first NBA matches take place on December 22.
This decision was made to allow greater income – with no direct competition with the Olympic Games in July and August – as well as allowing players to compete internationally, with many top stars stating their intent to participate at Tokyo 2020.
A play-in tournament for the final play-off spot in each conference would also continue on from last season, with an estimated end date being late June.
The NBA had no players test positive for the virus during the “bubble” in Orlando, which it used to complete the 2019-20 season.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has previously suggested it was unlikely that the season would be paused – most likely between the regular season and the play-offs – to accommodate the Games.
But the latest reported dates means a clash with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, scheduled for July 23 to August 8 next year after being postponed due to the pandemic, would be avoided.
Silver also said that there would be at least eight weeks between a union deal and the start of the next season.
ESPN reported that the latest time to strike a deal could be October 30.
The NBA Draft is scheduled for November 18, with the free agency for the next season expected to begin soon after.