NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the earliest the NBA will consider starting next season is January and still hopes to stuff in an 82-game slate.
Under normal times, NBA training camps would begin next week with the season opener in mid-October. During these pandemic times, the NBA is in the midsts of the conference finals with the season not ending till mid-October.
“My best guess is that even though as you said it’ll be the 20-21 season, that season won’t start until ’21,’’ Silver said on CNN in an interview with Bob Costas. “We said a week ago the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year. But the more I’m learning even listening to Dr. (Anthony) Fauci this morning, I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January.”
The Post reported earlier this month the season’s start will be pushed back almost certainly to after Jan. 1 with dates up until March 1 not off the table. The league wants to ensure fans are in the building at the start of the season.
However, Silver said “the goal” remains to execute “a standard 82-game season and playoffs.’’
“The goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans, but there’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing for example,’’ Silver said. “Would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings, will there be other protections? Some of the things we’re learning down in Orlando on the campus down there and also clearly learning a lot from other sports.”
“There’s a lot of new information out there in the marketplace that we’re looking to absorb,’’ Silver added.
If the NBA season starts in February and still does an 82-game format, that would likely mean players from playoff teams would be unable to participate in next July’s Olympics in Tokyo.
Silver said he can’t solely base his own starting date on the 2021 Olympics because that, too, is uncertain to come off on time.
“It is a factor in our planning,’’ Silver said. “The problem is that if it goes on as scheduled, it’s unclear. And I think it would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule, when that’s so unclear.’’
The issue of Black Lives Matter has been a central theme of the NBA restart – to a point it nearly cancelled the playoffs following the boycott by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Silver said he hopes the NBA is still at the forefront of the movement next season but doubts to the same extent of players wearing social-justice messages on the back of their uniforms and emblazoning the court in a Black Lives Matter logo. Silver fears there could be “an amount of fatigue’’ next season.
The Post reported earlier some NBA executives think it’s a good idea to look at MLK Day on Jan. 18 as the NBA’s opening day.
“I’m not naïve,’’ Silver said. “I understand that people see this as politics. To me, there’s a long sort of through-line of social justice that’s been part of this league since its earliest days.
“When we return to normal, whatever that means, in arenas with fans, I expect it will manifest itself in different ways. I think some of the things that we’re doing this summer are unique. For example, the social justice messages on the jerseys, putting Black Lives Matter on the playing floor for example. My belief is that those are things unique to this moment in time.”