The NBA has yet to give a firm date for the beginning of next year, but commissioner Adam Silver said on Tuesday he believes the 2020-21 season will kick off in January at the earliest.
"My best guess is that even though it will be the 2020-21 season, that season won't start until '21," Silver told Bob Costas on CNN.
The 2019-20 season was delayed nearly five months due to the COVID-19 crisis. The NBA suspended play in March before resuming games in Orlando on July 31, with Game 7 of the Finals now set to end no later than Oct. 12. With the league's calendar now significantly altered, Silver and Co. are looking for the best path forward for both 2020-21 and beyond.
Silver said on Tuesday he views a Christmas Day start to the season as the best-case scenario, but the league's commissioner noted that is unlikely. Silver also added that the NBA hopes to hold games in home arenas in 2020-21, ideally with fans in attendance.
It's likely the NBA can pull off the first part of its plan regardless of the COVID-19 situation across the country. NFL and MLB teams are currently holding games in home stadiums, and after a rocky start for baseball, both leagues have found ways to mitigate risk for both players and coaches. Getting fans into arenas will be a far-greater challenge, especially if there is not a vaccine ready for the general public.
The NBA will continue to evaluate options for the start of the 2020-21 season in the coming weeks. Silver said the league hopes to hold a full 82-game season next year, a move that could permanently shift the NBA calendar for years to come. Opening future seasons near Christmas appears to be an increasingly appealing option for Silver and Co., marking a potential silver lining after a lengthy mid-year suspension. The NBA has been flexible in its thinking as it stages the 2020 postseason. That same mindset should come in handy when preparing for 2020-21.