The pros and cons of a December start to the 2021 NBA season
By: Jacob Shindel, Columnist
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
With the NBA’s three month hiatus back in March marking the start of one of the most unconventional seasons basketball fans have ever witnessed, the league is now trying to figure out when the next season will start. Rumors have recently surfaced that the league is looking into a late December start. That’s only two months away, which would give deep playoff teams, especially the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, only around two and a half months to recover and get ready.
This shorter-than-usual recovery time would especially hurt the Lakers, who, if they were to retain all their players from this past season, would have nine players above 30 years of age. While these players should not be labeled as old in basketball terms, they are most likely past their prime (with the possible exception of Lebron James who seems to get better the older he gets) and will take longer to recover from the grueling season.
The 2018-2019 season, which saw the Toronto Raptors win the Finals, ended June 13. The next season started Oct. 22, four and a half months later. This season’s rumored starting date, which has not been approved by the NBA or the NBA Players Association (NBPA), would be Dec. 22.
From a business perspective, this makes a little bit of sense. The season had a three month hiatus, and eight of the teams never even played in Orlando. For those teams, they have been on a break since March, which would equate to around nine months if they were to start in December. In my opinion, what the NBA should consider is to start the season for the eight non-bubble teams before the other twenty two teams.
If the NBA wanted to have more stars in the early stages of the season, the league could even allow the non-playoff bubble teams to start the season early, giving them more schedule variation. The last seeding game was Aug. 14, so if the season were to start on Dec. 22, those teams would have at minimum a little over four months of offseason recovery, which is closer to the normal length of an offseason.
Lakers shooting guard Danny Green indicated that superstar James would most likely sit out the first month of the season, and other players may follow suit. I think the NBA should let them, along with the playoff teams. Rushing back the players could lead to injury, while waiting too long would be a very large loss of revenue, especially if the NBA has to shorten the season.
The league would still be able to gain fan interest in the first month of the season, even without the league’s playoff teams. While there would be no James, Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo for the first month, NBA fans would still get to see the Golden State Warriors revamped and healthy roster, along with Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal all lead their respective teams who missed the playoffs this year.
From a players perspective, and for fans as well, this seems like a great idea. More rest for the teams that need it, and quicker action for the teams that haven’t seen the hardwood since early August and even March. It is a compromise that could work, but should be considered a longshot for now. There are still collective bargaining agreements that would have to be reached, which dictate the salary cap, player contracts, and revenue distribution. If the NBA and NBPA can agree to a deal that would allow for a staggered start and collective end to the regular season, it would be great. But for now, we still have to consider this proposal as a massive longshot.