Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
At least one NBA executive is under the impression that teams will be on a much tighter schedule during the 2020-21 season.
According to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said Tuesday 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.”
Mark Medina of USA Today reported Schlenk stated the NBA still wants teams to play an 82-game slate under such a scenario.
Per Bontemps, Schlenk pointed to more back-to-back games and sets of four games in five nights as ways the league could potentially play more games in a shorter period of time than usual.
The 2019-20 season has been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a plan is in place for the season to resume in July. The 2020 NBA Finals are expected to end in October, which is normally when the next season would begin.
Since the 2019-20 season is set to go much later than usual, opening night for the 2020-21 campaign is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 1.
While Dec. 1 may be the ideal target date for the NBA, it is far from set in stone. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported last week that the National Basketball Players Association told players the Dec. 1 start date is “unlikely” and will be negotiated.
Teams that go deep in the playoffs would have an extremely short offseason if the 2020-21 campaign begins on Dec. 1, and they wouldn’t have much time to prepare since training camps would begin on Nov. 10 under that plan.
If opening night of the 2020-21 season is pushed deeper into the month of December, the NBA may have to get even more creative in order to have an 82-game schedule, or perhaps even consider cutting down the schedule.
Shortened seasons are nothing new for the NBA. All 30 teams will finish with fewer than 82 regular-season games played this season due to COVID-19. The NBA also played shortened seasons in 2011-12 and 1998-99 due to labor disputes.
One of the biggest hot-button issues in the NBA in recent years has been load management, which is the act of resting star players during busy parts of the schedule to prevent fatigue and injury.
The NBA has attempted to cut down on load management by putting protocols in place, but the league may have to make some concessions in that regard and allow teams to rest their players whenever they see fit should there be an abundance of back-to-back games next season.
Fatigue will almost certainly be an issue next season with a condensed schedule and quick turnaround from this season, so using the entire roster and deepening rotations could be key in 2020-21.