Report: NBA Training Camp May Start December 1
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After last week’s sudden shift towards an accelerated launch into the 2020-21 NBA season, new training camp start dates are beginning to emerge. According to the New York Times Marc Stein, the league is aiming to have teams gather to prepare for the season on December 1.
On Friday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe reported that some league owners were still pushing for the NBA season to begin on Christmas day, one of the league’s strongest viewership dates throughout the calendar. The Athletic’s Shams Charania later reported the league was aiming to begin the regular season on December 22.
With a $500 million windfall at stake, the abbreviated offseason gained rapid momentum, leading up to Stein’s latest report.
NBA training camps traditionally start during the last week of September, with the NBA regular season beginning during the third week of October. That gives teams a three-week window to prepare for the season and schedule preseason games in anticipation of opening night.
But while starting training camp on December 1 would follow the league’s traditional timeframe, nothing about this past season, nor the current offseason has followed tradition.
The Los Angeles Lakers were crowned NBA champions on October 11, yet the NBA draft won’t take place until November 18, more than a month after the playoffs were completed.
During the traditional NBA summer, the Finals conclude during the second week of June, with the draft taking place just two weeks later. Free agency then opens in early July, with summer league beginning later that month.
When Will Free Agency Open?
With the draft set for November 18 and the rumored start date for training camps beginning just 12 days later, the league must attempt to squeeze free agency into a significantly abbreviated window. During a normal offseason, free agents can officially sign their deals during the first week of July and have two and a half months to relocate to their new cities ahead of training camp.
That relocation period could be reduced to as little as a week this offseason, if not less, depending on when the league decides to open the signing window. This radically reduced timeframe has led to rumors that some free agents have already begun negotiating their next deals before the window has officially opened.
The common belief is that the NBA will open free agency just days after the draft is held. While there would likely be a widespread rush to get deals finalized, inevitably, some players wouldn’t sign with their new teams until after training camp has already begun. That’s a less than ideal scenario, especially for teams to haven’t played competitive basketball since the league shut down in mid-March.
To remedy that problem, the league could opt for a more aggressive change by moving free agency up in November, allowing players to sign deals before the draft has taken place.
While this may seem like a radical idea, it’s a concept that has been circulating throughout the league for several seasons.
“In general, supporters of the flip-flop argue that conducting free agency first would allow teams to use cap space more efficiently — and increase trade activity at the draft,” Lowe wrote of a Houston Rockets proposal to the league in 2018. “This year’s draft featured only a handful of trades, and for the first time since 2003, none involving current NBA players.”
With next season’s salary cap still undetermined due to the financial losses associated with COVID-19, allowing teams to negotiate deals before the draft, then further reform their rosters on draft night could give NBA front offices a better opportunity to reach financial solvency heading into next season.
How Does This Impact the Jazz?
The NBA’s abbreviated offseason will have a major impact on every team across the league, including the Utah Jazz. Guard Jordan Clarkson is an unrestricted free agent and is likely to have many suitors who want to add a potent scorer to their bench unit.
According to ESPN analyst Bobby Marks, Clarkson’s contract next season is likely to come in with a price tag of roughly $8-10 million, which coincides with the projected value of the league’s mid-level exception. Marks projection can be viewed as both a positive and a negative for the Jazz.
On one hand, Clarkson’s price matching the MLE means roughly 19 teams across the NBA should have the tools at their disposal to match Clarkson’s asking price. That could significantly increase Clarkson’s market size if he can’t fetch a more lucrative offer from one of the few teams that have real cap space this offseason.
On the other hand, the relatively low price point could allow the Jazz to outbid Clarkson’s market to retain his services. The Jazz own the guard’s Bird-rights which allows them to go beyond the salary cap to keep the guard in Utah. Thus, the Jazz could beat any MLE offer for Clarkson and venture into a financial territory other teams across the league may feel is too steep.
Finally, the abbreviated free agency window could significantly reduce movement across the NBA. While players have never been more willing change teams at the drop of a hat, venturing onto a new team, in a new city, amid a global pandemic, with the league’s uncertain financial future may be too much of a gamble for some free agents.
As a result, several players, including Clarkson, could opt for one-year deals with their existing teams, only to hit the free-agent market next summer with a clearer picture of what the future looks like.
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