Even though the NBA’s 2019-20 season is targeted to return on July 31 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida, there is still uncertainty about the near future of the league. For one, with the end of this season being delayed and the 2020 NBA Draft not even taking place until October 15, how and when will next season be completed?
According to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, the NBA has indicated to GMs that the 2020-21 schedule could be condensed in order to stick to the same timeline as best as possible, to get back to normal for next year.
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said on a conference call with reporters this morning that the NBA has indicated to the league's GMs that next year's schedule could be condensed in order to try to keep the league as close to its usual timeline as possible.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) June 9, 2020
This plan isn’t a guarantee and we’ll surely hear more details in the coming weeks, but it hardly sounds like a good idea. The NBA has been working on scheduling to cut down the frequency of back-to-backs and stretches of four games in five nights more than ever in recent seasons, placing increased emphasis on player health. Going away from this, even for a single season, could be detrimental to the health of players through the season and wear them down more than normal by the time the playoffs roll around. Plus, the league can’t necessarily count on the same level of availability from its stars if they choose to miss extra games to get the rest they need.
A condensed season would also be following a shorter offseason for players to recover after the playoffs — this year’s Finals won’t start until September 30 and the 2020-21 season is tentatively set to start on December 1.
Rather than trying to force an 82-game schedule into a shorter timeframe, simply playing fewer games would be far better for players, even if it’s not ideal for the league from a financial standpoint. This is especially important when thinking about teams like the Sixers, who have multiple players (i.e. Joel Embiid and Al Horford) who need their minutes and number of games to be monitored with care.