The 2019-20 NBA season lasted more than a full year, from the start of training camp (Oct. 1, 2019) to the end of the finals (Oct. 11, 2020).
There was a lot of time off during that span, of course, but it was not a relaxing few months. It was a time fraught with worry over a global health pandemic — a time when a lot of players couldn’t work out in a meaningful way and/or wouldn’t have wanted to if they could.
Then all but eight teams were whisked away to Orlando — some for a handful of weeks, some for several months. The rest barely did anything, which might have been just as strange.
Players’ bodies are either tired or confused. Their heads are probably all over the place. But through all of it, players and the league have agreed to start this season … next month? Training camp in a few weeks?
Absurd. Dumb. The worst idea, except from a pure short-term business sense.
Between now and then — and remember, as of this writing the NBA finals ended less than a month ago — there will be a draft in eight days on Nov. 18. Free agency starts Nov. 20. And the camps open Dec. 1.
It’s the shortest offseason in the history of major U.S. sports, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
All of it in the name of cramming in 72 games this season, in a schedule that has yet to be determined or announced, in arenas that might or might not have fans.
A typical offseason would have close to four months from the end of the finals to the start of camp, and roughly three months between the draft/start of free agency and the start of camp.
This one will have TWO WEEKS between the draft and the start of camp and even less time between the start of free agency and the start of camp.
The Lakers and Heat will have had just over a month-and-a-half between the end of their season and the start of camp.
With COVID numbers skyrocketing and a widespread effective vaccine at least several months away from being a reality, the 2020-21 NBA season was destined to be abnormal.
(The question of how wise all this is to try outside of a bubble is another question for another day).
If the idea of this timeline is to protect the sanctity of the 2021-22 season, during which things could be normal-ish, the smart thing to do would have been this: Open camps on Jan. 1 and start the season on MLK Day (Jan. 18). Give everyone another month to decompress and figure out rosters. Then play about 60 games.
Sacrifice a little short-term financial pain from fewer games played for the long-term physical and mental health of everyone involved.
NBA health officials are concerned, and rightfully so. This is reckless, and we won’t really know how much so until it’s too late.