It was just over two months ago that the Boston Celtics completed their sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers in round one of the 2020 playoffs, and only less than three weeks since the Los Angeles Lakers won Game 6 over the Miami Heat to earn the franchise’s 17th championship. Yet, players could be returning to practice facilities in just five weeks’ time to unofficially begin the 2020-21 season, according to a report from Marc Stein of the New York Times:
Dec. 1, I'm told, has emerged as the likely opening day for NBA training camps if the league's plan to set Dec. 22 as opening night of the 2020-21 season is approved by the union— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 27, 2020
Three weeks is the customary time between the start of training camp and the beginning of the regular season, so a December 1 date fits perfectly with the proposed timeline of opening night falling on December 22. Last year, under much more normal circumstances, training camps opened for the vast majority of teams on October 1 (the handful of teams playing preseason games globally started on September 28), with the regular season then having begun on October 22.
However, while training camp would take place under a normal time frame under this reported arrangement, everything else about the offseason would be extremely truncated. The 2020 NBA draft is slated to take place on Wednesday, November 18. Incoming rookies would have just over a month from learning where they’ll be playing to taking the court on opening night. Additionally, all free agent activity would have to occur across the few weeks following the draft and preceding the start of the season. There are rumors that players have already been signing free-agent contracts, and teams want clear guidelines about what is happening with free agency.
From the Sixers’ perspective, this offseason is obviously critical for improving a roster that underperformed last season. Elton Brand will need to find replacements for rotation cogs Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III. More importantly, many onlookers hope the Sixers’ front office is able to use the time period to get off one of the bloated contracts belonging to Al Horford and Tobias Harris. It might also behoove the organization to move Josh Richardson at some point prior to the trade deadline, with the 27-year-old wing entering the final year of his contract and the Sixers unlikely to re-sign him while already residing in luxury tax territory.
Whatever the NBA sets forth as the plan, we can be sure that this year’s free agency will be a frantic period of time. It will take nimble, creative decision-makers in front offices across the league to pounce on what are sure to be ripe opportunities, and avoid missteps in the panic. Hopefully, Brand and the reconfigured team behind him are up to the challenge as we await a new season drawing ever closer.