With no definitive word on when, or if, the NBA season will resume and the possibility of the playoffs starting in June and the Finals ending in August, the 2020-21 season could be immensely disrupted. So maybe it's time for the Association to consider a truly radical revamping of its calendar.
Let's start next season on Christmas Day, begin the playoffs in June and move the Finals, draft and free agency to August. Then make this radical change permanent. This idea was spurred by Bobby Marks of ESPN, who floated a hypothetical timetable for the next few months of this season.
Christmas was also the start of the lockout-delayed 2011-12 season, which was reduced to 66 games. Each team played at least one back-to-back-to-back. It’s not a coincidence that Derrick Rose blew out his knee in the first playoff game after a schedule like that. It’s impossible to fit an 82-game schedule into a four-month window to start the playoffs on time, and honestly, getting in 66 was a stretch.
So rather than running its players into the ground trying to get back to a semblance of a "normal" schedule, the NBA should make a December 25 season start the new normal. Christmas Day is already the league’s biggest holiday, with a five-game marathon designed to showcase the high-profile teams and give hoops addicts an escape from their families. It essentially gives the NBA an all-day promotional trailer for the upcoming season.
The 2019-20 season started Oct. 22 — which was also the first night of the World Series. That’s not the best time to attract a national audience of sports fans. It also competes with the NFL and college football. By Christmas, college football is done except for bowls, and the NFL is playing only on weekends. People will pay attention to early-season basketball when there’s nothing else on.
My radical season shift would also give college basketball a good month-and-a-half to itself. Pro scouts would love 40-plus days free of NBA distractions, and NBA games from July-August would plug a hole in the sports calendar for hoops junkies.
The calendar benefits extend beyond the Christmas bonus. Imagine how much more pleasant All-Star Weekend in a cold-weather city would be if it took place in the middle of April instead of February. For the 2021 All-Star Game in Indianapolis, you’d probably have a 20-degree difference in temperature, allowing fans and tourists to enjoy all the great treasures of...Indianapolis. OK, bad example, but there’s infinitely more options for fan experiences when people can actually go outside.
Speaking of intolerable weather, the worst part of Summer League is dealing with scorching July heat in Las Vegas. With a schedule shift, the Summer League would begin in September when the temperature in Vegas is a little more tolerable. Rebrand it the Fall League.
If the playoffs began in June, parents would rejoice too. Who cares if a kid stays up late in July to watch LeBron? There’s no school! It would be neglectful parenting to deny a kid a chance to watch Zion and Ja Morant square off on July 10 in the playoffs. And imagine how much nicer it would be for Raptors fans to watch games in Jurassic Park when it’s not 40 degrees at game time.
Does my revamped schedule conflict with the Summer Olympics every four years? Yes, but honestly, do we still need proof that Team USA, essentially an NBA All-Star team, can beat up on less talented international opponents? Send a team of college stars, a G League All-Star team or the best Americans from the nine seeds in each NBA conference. Hell, just send the Sacramento Kings. They’re not going to be busy. We don’t need to keep proving that Kevin Durant and LeBron James aren’t fazed by the Croatian national team. Olympic basketball is overrated anyway. We already have an exciting tournament featuring the top players from all over the world — it’s called the NBA playoffs.
So what's not to like about this plan?
Players vacationing in early fall can enjoy discounted offseason rates on jet skis and banana boats, college stars get five months to get in shape and healthy for the draft, and the NBA can add a full day of Easter games to complement its Christmas marathon.
Trying to compress the NBA season to fit into an arbitrary time frame is asking for trouble, especially when it comes to player health. Instead of trying to rush everything to fit the old calendar, push everything back, play a normal schedule and reap all the benefits of a chilled out Christmas-August NBA season. It may seem crazy now, but once hoops fans experience a first Fourth of July weekend full of fireworks and thrilling playoff basketball, they'll never look back.
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