NBA to Begin Free Agency on November 20, Start Season on December 22

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It’s official: The NBA is coming back Dec. 22.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced Monday night that they’ve struck a deal on rules for this coming season, setting the stage for what will be a frenzied few weeks before games resume.

Teams will play a 72-game schedule, which will be revealed in the coming weeks. The league said a new system will be used to ensure that the split of basketball-related income continues, one of the many details that had to be collectively bargained with the union because the current agreement between the sides had a great deal of language that needed reworking because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Negotiations with free agents will be allowed to begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, with signings permitted starting at 12:01 p.m. on Nov. 22—an extraordinarily fast window for the NBA, which typically has about a week spanning the start of talks and the beginning of signings. But with training camps this year beginning Dec. 1, both sides evidently feel there isn’t a need to draw out the process any longer than necessary.

Many rosters could be considerably reshaped by then, with trades likely to be permissible again in the coming days—the exact details there still being worked out—and the NBA draft set to take place Nov. 18. Player and team options likely will be settled around that same time. Free agency starts two days after the draft, with around 100 players set to be unrestricted.

The salary cap and tax level will remain unchanged. The cap was $109.14 million this past season, with the tax level at $132,627,000. The real numbers will be affected by the schedule—last year’s numbers were based on the standard 82-game season, a threshold that won’t be reached this year.

For the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, it will be the shortest offseason in NBA history—with seven weeks separating the end of the NBA Finals and the planned Dec. 1 start of training camp.

But for the eight teams that didn’t make the restart bubble at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida this summer, it has been a marathon offseason, with none of those teams—Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Charlotte, Golden State, Minnesota, New York and Detroit—having played since the second week of March. The NBA shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 11, then took 22 of its 30 teams to Disney to resume the season in July.