Report: NBA, Toronto Raptors looking to start 2020-21 season on December 22

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In a somewhat stunning Friday afternoon news drop, The Athletic’s Shams Charania is reporting that the NBA is looking to kick off its 2020-21 season a mere two months from now:

Let us all channel our inner Keanu and exclaim: Whoa.

While a Christmas 2020 start date has been seen as ideal since the 2019-20 season resumed — it’s pretty much the unofficial kick-off of the season in a normal year anyway, since everyone is apparently watching football prior to that date — it seemed less and less likely as time, and the COVID-19 pandemic, has dragged on. As recently as earlier this week it seemed that Martin Luther King Day (January 18, 2021) was the more likely start date.

And here comes Shams to blow us all away with a potential pre-Christmas tip-off!

A few other details from Charania’s report:

  • The NBA would like to play a 72-game schedule;
  • This schedule would see the 2021 Playoffs and Finals wrap up before the 2020-now-currently-reschsduled-for-2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, allowing NBA players to particpate;
  • The NBA would still like to incororpate a play-in tournament for the final playoff spots, similar to the one recently used in the Orlando restart;
  • The league wants teams to play in their home markets, and is looking at ways to reduce travel, including having teams play each other multiple times or more often in short succession (perhaps like a typical baseball series?).

This last point, of course, remains particularly relevant for our Toronto Raptors, since their home market is across a border that is currently “closed” and requires travellers to self-isolate whenever they cross it. Some potential good news came about yesterday, though, when the province of Alberta announced it was going to pilot a COVID-19 test at the border that could potentially eliminate quarantine times. Without the quarantine concern, the idea of the Raptors and their opponents (and NHL teams, too) crossing the border regularly seems much more reasonable. The idea that floated out earlier this week — of the Raptors potentially playing in Louisville — was met with understandable criticism, so we will keep our fingers crossed that the team can play all of its home games at Scotiabank Arena.

ESPN, meanwhile, has also been reporting on this quick start, and Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe report that the NBA is OK with moving ahead on the Christmas restart, even if fans cannot attend games in person.

Lowe and Windhorst also report that the NBA and the Player’s Association have agreed that October 30 will be the deadline to conclude their discussions and get things underway. Since Commissioner Adam Silver has said the sides would need eight weeks between reaching an agreement and getting underway — and there’s about eight weeks between Oct. 30 and Dec. 25 — this makes sense.

It also means we should be getting even more news and updates between now and next Friday. Stay tuned!