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Adam Silver at the NBA All-Star Game (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Adam Silver: ‘Best Guess’ NBA Season Will Start In January

Adam Silver at the NBA All-Star Game (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA postseason is still underway, but for the 26 teams that have already been eliminated, all eyes are on next season. Now, they just need to know when that will begin. According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, his “best guess” is that the season will begin in January.

Silver joined broadcaster and current CNN contributor Bob Costas to detail the latest NBA news and when to expect the league return next year.

The NBA had originally targeted a December 1 beginning to the 2020-21 season when it announced its Orlando restart plans, but with the NBA Finals set to conclude in mid-October, the turnaround was deemed too aggressive.

Last week, the NBA pushed the league’s annual draft back from October 16 to November 18 to allow for more time to finalize financial figures from the pandemic stricken season.

January Return Hopes To See Fans In Arenas

In addition to hoping for a January return, Silver said the hope is for teams to be able to play in their home arenas and in front of fans. While the NBA opted to restart their suspended season in a secluded bubble on The Walt Disney World Resort properties in Orlando, Major League Baseball, the NFL, and certain college conferences have restarted their summer and fall seasons playing in their own stadiums, some of which include fans

The NBA has toyed with the idea of restarting next season in another bubble environment, or potentially hosting several secure playing environments across the US, though secluding players from their families for the second time in as many seasons may be a tough sell.

The continuing emergence of rapid testing limited travel may allow the NBA to avoid such a dramatic approach next year.

What About The Olympics?

Silver told Costas the goal was for the NBA to host a full 82 game regular season, even if the season doesn’t begin until January. That may be a tough sell, especially considering the 2020 Olympic games have been rescheduled for July and August of 2021.

The league will have to account for the pending international duties when it releases its plan for the 2020-21 season.

While Olympic rosters host only 12 players, the league would risk losing a significant number of its top 50 players to international play during the heart of its playoff chase should it choose to schedule the season through the summer.

“It’s unclear whether the Olympic Games will go on as scheduled, and I think it would be tough for us to make a decision on January based on the Olympics happening as scheduled, that’s so unclear,” Silver said. “We may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players will not be competing in the Olympics, either American or International players playing for other countries, that’s something we will have to work through. These are highly unique circumstances, and I think that just as it is for the Olympic movement it is for us, we’re going to just find a way to meld and mash those two competing considerations.”

The NBA could inform its players it would prefer they don’t leave mid-season to join their international roster but would risk alienating its international fanbase. It could also allow for a mid-season window to account for the Olympics, giving players a month off in July and August to fulfill their duties before returning to the NBA floor. In this scenario, the NBA could make a permanent shift towards pushing its season to run from December to August on an annual basis.

Or, the league could opt for a 50 game season as it has during lockout-shortened seasons, and have the Finals conclude in mid-June. That would allow the NBA to get back on schedule for the traditional offseason beginning next June, with the 2021-22 season beginning again next October.

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