Player reps expected to approve Dec. 22 start to NBA season

Sunil Kumar
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The NBA’s board of governors and players’ association will hold separate meetings on Thursday expected to culminate with an agreement on starting the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22 and playing a reduced 72-game schedule, sources told ESPN.

The National Basketball Players Association is planning to take a formal vote of the team player representatives late Thursday, and sources told ESPN that everything is progressing toward an agreement on a pre-Christmas start to the season. The NBPA is holding team conference calls this week, including several on Wednesday, that detail discussions with the league on a salary escrow for players in the range of 18% for the next two years, sources told ESPN.

Sources say the team representatives are expected to approve the agreement.

The league and players are still negotiating that escrow figure, sources said.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the board of governors are awaiting a formal acceptance on the Dec. 22 date, and both sides expect that’ll happen this week, sources said.

Organizations and players are proceeding with the urgency of a quick turnaround to the start of the season, including the Nov. 18 NBA draft, free agency, and training camps starting on Dec. 1, sources said. Once an agreement is reached, the league will lift a moratorium and reopen the league for business on trades before the draft.

The league believes that a Dec. 22 start that includes Christmas Day games on television and allows for a 72-game schedule that finishes before the Summer Olympics in mid-July is worth between $500 million and $1 billion in short- and long-term revenues to the league and players, sources said.

The NBA and NBPA have discussed significant rises in the escrow withholding on players’ salaries to account for the severe losses in league revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sides are working toward spreading out the players’ losses over multiple seasons, so the players don’t take such a substantial financial hit in one year.

The NBA has pushed back a deadline to Friday that keeps open the option of terminating the collective bargaining agreement, which would essentially blow up the league’s financial structure that allows for a 50/50 split of basketball-related income under the provisions of the CBA. Because of the pandemic triggering a force majeure clause in the CBA, both sides have the option of serving notice of 45 days on terminating the agreement, sources said.

The league recently told teams that 40% of basketball-related income could be lost without gate receipts this season, sources said. The NBA’s basketball-related income was down $1.5 billion last season, according to data provided to teams and obtained by ESPN.

Most NBA cities are still unable to have public gatherings of more than 500 people. The NBA plans to start the season without fans in the arenas — with little confidence that they’ll be able to return anytime early in the season as a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country.



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