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NBA Looking at Condensed Schedule in 2020-21?

Each day that passes brings us closer to the restart of the NBA season, which is scheduled for July 31. That will kick off a frenetic eight-game sprint to close the regular season and help set the playoff field. After that, we’ll see the postseason roll on in efforts to crown a champion. The latest date that the NBA Finals are slated to end, based on the potential that we see a slew of seven-game series, is October 12. With all the dates for the restart of the 2019-20 NBA season locked in on paper, it’s time to start looking at the 2020-21 campaign and beyond.

According to one NBA executive, the 2020-21 season could be a condensed slate in an effort to keep the schedule close to what a normal NBA slate would be. In addition, the league is hopeful that by going that route, they’ll be able to finish the postseason in time for players to take part in the Tokyo Olympics, which were originally scheduled for this summer but have been pushed off to 2021. Travis Schlenk, the GM of the Atlanta Hawks, made that statement on Tuesday morning as part of a conference call, saying that it was the mindset of the league when the resumption plans for this season were discussed last week.

"Because of this circumstance, I think the league wants to stay as close to its original schedule as possible. 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.

Under the concept that has been reportedly kicked around for the 2020-21 season, the NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for August 25. It will consist of the eight teams (Hornets, Bulls, Knicks, Warriors, Timberwolves, Hawks, Cavaliers, Pistons) that weren’t invited to the league’s restart in Orlando and the six teams from the 22 in the field that end up not qualifying for the actual 16-team field. The NBA Draft is slated to take place on October 15 with free agency expected to begin three days later, on October 18.

With that concept in mind, it would make for a quick turnaround for the 2020-21 season. As it stands, the league is looking to start training camps for next season on November 10 with the regular season slated to begin on December 1. That might be an optimistic time frame as any sort of restructuring of the schedule like that would have to be signed off by the NBA Players Association. For what it’s worth, NBPA president Michele Roberts was surprised by the potentially aggressive turnaround schedule last week in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It would mark a very quick turnaround for teams that make deep playoff runs, barring there being some shorter series in the early rounds. If the playoffs went right to the wire and its stated final date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it would mean just under a month between the potential end date of the season and the start of training camp.

The league is going to do whatever they can to ensure that their players can make the Olympics in Tokyo next summer. We know that the league wants to avoid trying to play the NBA Finals next summer against the Olympics as it would be a major blow to ratings for certain, not to mention the possibility that players could be missing from the Olympic landscape. The league has 108 foreign-born players on their rosters, most of whom have at least a decent shot of representing their countries in the Olympics and who would love the opportunity.

It may lead to teams playing back to backs, three games in four nights and potentially four games in five nights, something that they have tried to avoid in recent years. However, if the league needs to condense things to make it work, that may be just some of what is on the table. We’ll have to see what the league and the NBPA can come to terms on going forward, once we get through this season.

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Chris Kubala

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