NBA commissioner Adam Silver says his ‘best guess’ is next season won’t begin until 2021

The 2019-20 NBA season, which began nearly a year ago, is in the closing stages now, with the conference finals in full swing. And with all but four teams back at home, most of the league has shifted towards preparing for next season. The only problem is, no one’s really sure when that’s going to be. 

Due to the delay necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, the league’s calendar wasn’t just affected for this season, but likely many seasons to come. Originally, the league was planning on trying to start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 1, but it’s become clear there’s no chance that is happening. During an interview with CNN on Tuesday, commissioner Adam Silver said his “best guess” is that next season won’t start until 2021. 

“My best guess is that even though it will be the 20-21 season, that that season won’t start until 21. We said a week ago or so that the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year, but the more I’m learning, even listening to Dr. Fauci this morning, I continue to believe we’re gonna be better off getting into January.”

While Silver didn’t give an exact start date, a potential option if they’re pushing things back into January, would be to have opening day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That’s traditionally been an important day for the league, and would allow them to put together a full day of games to tip things off. 

Silver also noted that the league’s goal is to play a full 82-game season, and that he would prefer if games took place in the team’s home arenas with fans present. 

The goal for us next season is to play a standard season — an 82 game season and playoffs. Further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans. But there’s still a lot we need to learn in terms of rapid testing, for example, would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings? Will there be other protections from the things we’re learning down in Orlando, currently, on the campus down there. And clearly learning a lot from other sports, what baseball is currently doing, what football’s doing, sort of as college sports has begun playing. So there’s a lot of new information out there in the marketplace that we’re looking to absorb.

A number of leagues, including MLS and the NFL, have already started allowing fans into stadiums in a limited capacity, but of course, those are outdoor venues. The situation would be much different for NBA teams who play inside, as crowded indoor spaces go against all COVID-19 guidelines. 

Based on Silver’s comments, it’s clear there are still a number of things the league has to sort out. The good news, though, is that with the offseason approaching, they have some time to make these decisions. And besides, for now, their focus is primarily on finishing the playoffs safely and crowning a new champion.  

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