The 2019-20 NBA season has certainly taken a different shape due to the coronavirus. And the pattern may continue into the 2020-21 season in order to accommodate the possible conclusion of regular season games and playoffs.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, officials are said to be in discussion over starting next season in December rather than October. This revised schedule would stretch the season into late July or early August and has reportedly been floated to teams by Commissioner Adam Silver. The idea may be a solution to the coronavirus impacts on the league, but it had been supported by Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin even before NBA games came to a grinding halt March 11.
“We have built the architecture of our season based on the ad market, not based on the consumer,” Koonin said at a sports conference on March 6. “What I’m saying is look at the spring, look at the summer, look at competing with baseball versus competing with the NFL, create more days, create time for practice, create longer training camps. Create time as your friend, rather than this artificial compression of second-quarter ad dollars being the arbiter for setting up our season.”
While Koonin offered a December start date as an answer for higher ratings, the idea also presents plenty of merit post-pandemic. There is no official word on how or when the league might complete its suspended season, if at all, but should a champion be determined in 2020 it will likely occur far past the typical June dates that hold the NBA finals. A delayed season start will surely give teams more of a proper offseason in that scenario while also allowing more time for fans to be let back into arenas.
Mass gatherings such as concerts and sporting events are said to be some of the last things to return as states loosen stay-at-home restrictions and some health experts have indicated that they may not return until the fall of 2021. But for sports teams that thrive on having fans at games, a longer waiting period may turn the tide in their favor. Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week that with promising new research being done, it’s “doable” that we could see a coronavirus vaccine available by January 2021.
In the meantime, the NBA is still ironing out ways to possibly proceed under the consultation of federal authorities and medical experts. Silver previously stated he hoped to have a better understanding of where things stand sometime in May, meaning answers could be on the way.