NBPA director Michele Roberts ‘surprised’ about the quick turnaround in league’s timeline for 2020-21 season

Nearly three months after suspending the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA Board of Governors has approved the league’s proposal for returning to play. It was a 29-1 vote, with the Portland Trail Blazers being the lone hold-out. On Friday, the players will hold their vote over the plan. 

While the broad strokes — a July 31 start date, 22 teams, a potential play-in tournament for the eighth seed in each conference, etc. — were already known, the press release from the league presented far more details. One of the most notable pieces of information was that the league wants to begin the 2020-21 season on Dec. 1. 

The latest potential date for Game 7 of the Finals for the 2019-20 season is Oct. 12, which means the offseason would be less than two months. That is rapid turnaround time, and many were stunned at that news. Chief among them was National Basketball Players Association president Michele Roberts. 

“I was surprised to see it,” Roberts told ESPN in a comment on Thursday night.

It’s notable that the league’s press release said the 2020-21 season would “likely” begin on Dec. 1, which indicates that there’s some wiggle room there. Judging by Roberts’ comments, the players may push for a later start date before they vote on the league’s proposal on Friday.

The teams that aren’t going to Orlando will have plenty of time to prepare for a Dec. 1 start date, and the group that either misses the playoffs or are eliminated in the first round should be OK as well. But such a quick return for 2020-21 turns into something of a punishment for teams that go deep into the playoffs, and especially the champion. 

There’s already something of a championship hangover for teams in a normal schedule; the effect from returning after less than two months would be much more noticeable, and possibly even catastrophic. Players need time away from the game, both mentally and physically. 

Beyond the potential for quality of play to suffer early in the 2020-21 season, there are very valid injury concerns. It’s not surprising that the players have some questions about this aspect of the proposal, and it will be interesting to see if anything changes either before or after their vote. 

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