So do the math, and it’s nine weeks between the last game of last season and the opener of next season. Get into training camp, and it’s maybe a month and a half for the Lakers and Heat, and a few more weeks for the Nuggets and Celtics, who both made the conference finals.
It’s a short turnaround, especially given the particularly trying conditions in the bubble. No, the teams didn’t have to travel, and that’s a big deal. But they also had to play virtually every other day throughout the playoffs. The players didn’t like, and probably still don’t, the idea of starting next season so early, but they agreed for one simple reason: the money.
It has been estimated that the league stands at risk of losing around half a billion dollars by pushing the start of the 2020-21 season a few more weeks into January, and players know those losses would trickle down to their wallets. So as it stands, they’ll start on December 22 and play 72 games, 10 short of the normal 82-game slate, which will allow them to finish the season on a normal schedule and, just as important, to start the 2021-22 season. in time, as we hope the pandemic is a thing of the past and the league can resume normal activities.
Until then, expect to see A LOT of load being handled by many teams, including LeBron James and the Lakers. LeBron is entering his 18th season. He will be 36 on December 30. He has just won his fourth championship and knows he has a legitimate chance of securing fifth place this coming season. He’s not about to lose his legs pushing himself at the start of a rushed schedule.
Why? A slightly higher seed? No chance. Anthony Davis will also be taking time off. And I guess the NBA will soften its stance on healthy stars who miss games, which they have tried to dissuade in previous seasons, but with varying success. You might like to think that the league’s proceeds matter to players reaping the financial rewards of its popularity, but they don’t risk their bodies for a Tuesday night game in January or a Wednesday night game in February, and they’ll will likely miss large chunks of time in between. Three games here. A week there. Who knows.
LeBron just went hard last season. He played 67 of 71 regular season games, totaling almost 35 minutes per game. Yes, there was an extended hiatus from March through August as the league suspended play amid a pandemic, but in some ways that made it more difficult. LeBron, and everyone else, had to stay in shape not knowing when the season would resume, so it’s really a full calendar year, from October 2019 to October 2020, that these guys couldn’t completely break away from basketball. -ball of the NBA. It’s a mental job as much as a physical one. And LeBron won’t be the only one recouping some of that downtime at least early in this accelerated 2020-2021 season, if not most of the time.