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Report: NBA could be looking at 50-game season with January start [UPDATE]

Earlier in the week, we got reports saying the players were pushing for a January 18 start to 2020-21. That could impact the schedule because of the Olympics.

Luol Deng of the Miami Heat and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers greets Michele Roberts, Executive Director of the NBPA as they arrive for the Basketball Without Boarders program on July 28, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE: Oct. 30 — The 2020-21 season has yet to get a start date as the League and players decide which is best for both parties. The NBA has been pushing for an earlier start to try and get in as many games as possible. The players are pushing for a later start in January to get more time to rest before next season. Marc Stein of The New York Times is reporting Friday that the season could be only 50 games long if it starts in late January. This could greatly impact TV revenue.

The NBA doesn’t want the season to go past mid-July because of the 2021 Olympics. The NBA is partnered with Disney and Turner for TV rights to their games. Going up against the Tokyo Olympics during the playoffs and NBA Finals would be less than ideal. We already saw a drop in viewership during the pandemic in the 2020 NBA playoffs. More lost revenue on top of an already shortened season could impact the salary cap again heading into next offseason.

Stein talked to Pacers G Malcolm Brogdon, who represents the NBPA. He said that he doesn’t expect a decision to be made on a start date by the end of Friday. That would mean another extension of the talks. Brogdon did mention that some resolution or clarity should happen by next week.

UPDATE: NBPA executive director Michele Roberts commented on the Dec. 22 start date to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. She, on behalf of the NBA players, feels that a start before Christmas Day defies common sense. Roberts wants the players to have ample time between seasons after having to endure the past year.

“The players are now being asked to re-pack their bags and head back to camp in a little over a month,” Roberts told The Athletic. “The prospective loss of revenue largely forms the basis of this proposal. Since its receipt a week ago, the NBPA — as is our practice — is reviewing and assessing the proposal and its underlying thesis. We will do so as expeditiously as practicable. Our focus will also include an analysis of any relevant health and safety implications. Simultaneously, we will be addressing these issues with our players. And, while we are all anxious to resolve these and other substantive issues outstanding between the parties, we plan to proceed at a pace that provides our players ample opportunity to determine the best way to proceed.”

The NBA held a BOG meeting last week and reports surfaced that the League was pushing to start the 2020-21 season before Christmas. That has received significant pushback from the players, who are seeking to start the season in the middle of January, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported Wednesday afternoon.

The 2020 NBA Draft is set for Nov. 18 and the players are seeking to start free agency shortly after, somewhat similar to how a normal League calendar would look like (June Draft, July start to FA). Instead of starting the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22, the NBPA is looking to start on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Jan. 18, per Haynes.

This isn’t all that surprising since the League’s idea of starting the season before Christmas Day is questionable. The 2020 playoffs ended in early October and this would essentially give the players who participated about a month before things start to ramp up. It was reported that training camp for next season would need to start at the beginning of December, rather than free agency. If the season were to start earlier, players who are free agents would have very little time to make a decision on their future before training camp.

Perhaps the biggest part of this report is that “star” players are pushing for the season to start later. It may mean fewer games, since the proposed start date of Dec. 22 would have meant a 72-game season. So if the season starts a month later than that, we could see around 50-60 games in the 2020-21 season, to try and realign the regular NBA calendar. The NBA wants players to be able to partake in the 2021 Olympics, though that doesn’t seem like a big priority for most players. There will be more Olympic games.