The NBA and its players agreed Friday to extend the deadline for opting out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by one week until Nov. 6, and talks will continue in the interim regarding the numerous issues that have to be decided before next season begins.
It is the fourth extension of the opt-out deadline since the pandemic started in March. If either the NBA or the National Basketball Players Association chooses to opt out by that date, the CBA would be terminated Dec. 14, “unless the parties agree otherwise,” the NBA said.
The NBA and NBPA need to adjust language in the CBA before a plan for next season can be finalized, simply because many rules in that document were written with a normal season — free agency in the summer, season beginning in October, fans in arenas, revenue meeting projections — in mind.
The league is targeting a Dec. 22 start to next season, though for that to happen a deal would have to be struck soon. Some players have balked at the notion of starting again that quickly; it would be less than a two-month turnaround for the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of their training camps. But the league believes starting around Christmas and playing a 72-game season would lead to $500 million in additional revenue compared to a later start and shorter season.
Revenue is, obviously, a major priority for both sides.
The Associated Press reported Oct. 23 that the NBA missed its revenue projection for the 2019-20 season by $1.5 billion largely because of the combination of a 4-1/2 month shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, not having fans in stands for the games played inside the restart bubble at Walt Disney World, and the decision by Chinese state television to not air NBA games there for a year following a political dispute.
The talks between the league and the NBPA include several urgent and unsettled topics, including determining a salary cap and luxury tax level for next season, parameters of a start date and schedule, how travel would work and how matters like coronavirus testing would be handled. This past season’s salary cap was $109.14 million and tax level was $132.627 million. One possible scenario is that both numbers remain the same for this coming season, but that must be determined before free agency can begin and teams and players — including those holding options for this coming season — can start making decisions.
Another goal is to get the 2021-22 season back on a typical schedule, starting in October and ending in June.
How long next season goes is also a source of concern given that next summer is an Olympic summer. Olympic qualifying for 24 nations trying to secure one of the four remaining men’s basketball slots for Tokyo is set to resume June 29, 2021, with the Tokyo Games opening July 23, 2021. The longer the next NBA season goes, the more difficult it would be for NBA players to commit to their national team.
Meanwhile, the league sent teams a memo Friday saying players can go to their team facility “on a voluntary basis for in-person, group practices or workout sessions, including informal scrimmages or pick-up games.” Players will be allowed to use the facility of the team that they were under contract with this past season, but those about to become free agents would be permitted there only until the new salary cap year begins.
Players from other teams will not be able to use another team’s facility, a departure from policy of past offseasons. Any player choosing to work out at his team’s facility will have to submit to coronavirus testing and temperature checks.
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