This NBA season has certainly been unlike any other, but the league may not get back to a sense of normalcy next season either. Executives are reportedly in discussions about adjusting the format of the 2020-21 season to keep the season at 82 games but tightening the schedule.
Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said that the league’s GMs were informed that officials are considering condensing the schedule to avoid any major changes brought on by the pandemic-induced hiatus, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.
“Because of this circumstance, I think the league wants to stay as close to its original schedule as possible,” Schlenk said this week via conference call. “There’s a lot of different reasons for that – the college season, the draft and how all of that plays out. So that’s why they’ve laid out a timeline where it would be a very quick turnaround from the NBA Finals to the start of the season.”
As part of the league’s format to resume the suspended season, 22 teams will reconvene in Orlando with late July serving as a target date to resume competition. Officials have planned for the NBA Finals to wrap as late as mid-October, proving difficult for the league to launch its 2020-21 season at its typical start date.
The league has set December 1 as its tentative date to begin the 2020-21 season with training camps to begin about three weeks earlier. The quick turnaround between seasons would likely require back-to-back games if the league intends to complete an 82-game schedule by June as usual. Although there has been pushback for such scenarios, this current season could be the driving force for officials to condense the schedule as necessary.
“If you’re going from the middle of October to starting the season [on] the 1st of December, if you are one of the teams in the Finals, that’s quick,” Schlenk said. “But they want to try to stay as close to the historical timing as possible. So I don’t think this is something you’ll see stick. They’ve talked to us on one of our GM calls that it might be a condensed schedule next year. More so than in the past. As you know, there’s been a big drive to avoid back-to-backs and certainly four in five nights, but we might find ourselves in a situation next year where it would be much more condensed.”
Schlenk’s fellow executive, Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, has also advocated for a slight change in scheduling. Koonin has argued that moving the season back a few months so it runs from December to August help the league in terms of broadcast ratings without as much competition from the NFL. The idea of pushing back the start of the season to December was also floated around earlier in the suspension period.