NBA return timeline, key dates: League picks draft day; start of free agency, 2020-21 season still uncertain

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Despite mounting coronavirus cases in Florida and persisting social unrest due to the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake at the hands of police officers, the NBA’s Orlando bubble has mostly gone off without a hitch. Tests continue to yield no positive results, and we’ve reached the conference finals without a significant interruption since a brief stoppage following the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to sit out a playoff game against the Orlando Magic. Barring an unforeseen issue, the NBA can safely expect to crown a champion in October. 

Yet due to the extenuating circumstances involved in creating the bubble and the forces that necessitated it, there have obviously been massive changes to the schedule. After so many months off, the league has had to adjust not only the remainder of this season, but its offseason and 2020-21 timelines as well. Based on the NBA‘s health guidelines obtained by CBS Sports as well as reporting from The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, below is the tentative schedule of key NBA dates for the rest of 2020. 

  • June 23: Transaction window opens
  • June 24: Soft deadline for players to decide not to play at Disney
  • June 30: Transaction window ends
  • July 1: Mandatory individual workouts begin
  • July 1: Hard deadline for players to decide not to play at Disney
  • July 7: Nets, Nuggets, Magic, Suns, Jazz and Wizards travel to Orlando
  • July 8: Celtics, Mavericks, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Pelicans, Thunder and Kings travel to Orlando
  • July 9: Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Bucks, 76ers, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Raptors travel to Orlando
  • July 9-21: Team training camps
  • July 21-28: NBA award voting (awards announced during playoffs)
  • July 22-29: Inter-squad scrimmages
  • July 30: Beginning of restarted 2019-20 season 
  • Aug. 15-16: Play-in tournament
  • Aug. 17: Beginning of Round 1 of postseason
  • Aug. 20: NBA Draft Lottery
  • Aug. 30: Player guests arrive in Orlando
  • Aug. 31: Beginning of Round 2 of postseason
  • Sep. 15: Beginning of conference finals
  • TBA: Start of NBA Finals
  • Nov. 18: NBA Draft
  • TBA: Start of free agency
  • TBA: Training camps for 2020-21 season begin 
  • TBA: Opening night for 2020-21 season 

While it should be noted that Charania described the training camp and opening night dates for next season as fluid, the potentially condensed nature of the offseason stands out here. Teams that made deep playoff runs could potentially have far less time than usual recover before starting training camp for the following season. That would theoretically put them at a major disadvantage for the 2020-21 campaign. Supporters will argue that every team got at least four months off because of the pandemic, but with access to gyms so limited, the impact that time off will have had on their bodies is currently unknown.

Front offices will also feel the crunch. Given the uncertain state of the cap and their inability to work draft prospects out in person, they face just as much off-court uncertainty as teams have faced on it. The season should finish off as expected, but the league’s short-term future is still very much a mystery. 

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