The NBA isn’t banking on seeing next season start before 2021 — and worried about what revenue it will bank.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the league’s general managers on Monday that “time is running out” on starting the 2021-21 season before Christmas, according to ESPN, putting hundreds of millions of dollars at risk with another shortened season. The league and National Basketball Players Association spoke as recently as Monday, but the union has yet to agree to a Dec. 22 start, having just finished the past season in mid-October.
To be ready to open play before Christmas, training camps would need to begin around Dec. 1, leaving little time for the sides to reach an agreement, though sources told ESPN “optimism still exists.” The players are seeking to start the season in mid-January, but the league objects to the late start because it would stretch the season into July and into TV competition with the Summer Olympics.
The NBA estimates it could lose between $500 million and $1 billion by failing to start the season in December, but the league has discussed increasing revenue by expanding guidelines on sports betting, casinos and hard alcohol, which ESPN sources believe could generate as much as $100 million. Currently, the league isn’t planning on having fans in attendance to start the season, and is unsure when that could occur.
Another way to increase revenue would be the expansion of the play-in tournament for playoff spots, first introduced in the Orlando bubble this summer. Gaining momentum is a proposal that would feature the Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10 seeds fighting for the final two playoff spots in each conference. In such a scenario, the No. 7 seed would play the No. 8 seed and the No. 9 seed would play the No. 10 seed. The 9-10 loser would be eliminated and the 7-8 winner would become the No. 7 seed, creating an 8-9 matchup for the final spot, with the No. 9 and No. 10 teams having to win twice without losing in order to advance.
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