It’s been a long wait for basketball fans who have been on the edge of their seats hoping forany announcements about how the forthcoming season is going to take shape. There was speculation that it wouldn’t be until 2021 that the proceedings would start, as well as rumors that the season might not happen at all.
So there were sighs all round when the NBA announced the key dates that will dictate the structure of the 20-21 season although, in these uncertain times, they may well be subject to change.
22nd December, Season Starts
This is the date that everyone was hoping to hear was going to be definitely confirmed. For hoop fans it really couldn’t come at a better time, signalling that the holidays really will have something to celebrate. It’s been said that by starting the season in January the NBA stood to lose over $1 billion in missed revenues so the decision to start before Christmas was as much a financial as a practical one.
The details of the actual match schedule are still to be confirmed and it’s thought that it will be released in two parts. The first of these is due to be revealed around the time of the training camp early in December with the second as we approach March’s All-Star break.
What we do know is that the main season will consist of 72 games with each team meeting the others within its conference a total of three times. The other 30 games will be played against teams from the other conference, once at home and once away.
In terms of whether spectators will be allowed at any of the games this is yet to be confirmed. It’s likely that this will be left to the teams themselves to decide if it’s possible to accommodate them safely under the restrictions which may be in force at the time.
It’s estimated that between 5 and 10 teams will try to allow fans to attend with one of the first to declare their plans being the Golden State Warriors who aim to operate at around 50% capacity at the Chase Center.However the news isn’t so good for LA Lakers fans as they have announced that they have no intention of issuing tickets until further notice.
5th – 10th March, All Star Break
It’s a disappointment for many that there will definitely be no All-Star Game in the coming season. This would have been the 70thgame in the series and one which is ever-more popular as a stopgap while other matches are put on hold. The 2020 game was a particularly closely-fought classic with Team LeBron representing the Western Conference beating Giannis Antetokounmpo’soutfit by the narrowest of margins, 157-155. However, from the players’ perspective this will be a chance to take five and re-group for what is likely to be a challenging run-in towards the end of the season.
16th May, Season Ends
The actual end of the season comes in the middle of May, by which time everyone will have had a good chance to see just how accurate OLBG’s NBA picks have been through the preceding weeks, and fans may even be able to start putting some confident bets on the play-offs and subsequent finals.
17th-21st May, Play-in Tournament
Introduced in the 2020 season as a way for a team to gain the 8th seed in the truncated schedule, the Play-in Tournament is also due to take place in 2021 if needed. Once again, it will consist of two games to decide who gains that coveted final spot in the play-offs which will start as soon as it has been resolved.
22nd May, First Round Playoffs
The post-season starts with the two conferences starting to battle it out before the ultimate winners of each come together in the finals. It’s likely that all the usual suspects will feature. But the great thing about basketball is that there’s always room for a surprise run of success with unexpected teams beating the odds. One only has to look at the Denver Nuggets’ dogged progression all the way to the semi finals in which they twice overturned 3-1 deficits against Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers respectively, the first team in NBA history to achieve this feat.
7th June, Conference semi-finals,22nd June, Conference Finals
As the teams get whittled down, we’ll grow closer and closer to discovering just who will be battling it out in the finals. Teams already firmly in the frame include, naturally, the LA Lakers, the Milwaukee Bucks and the LA Clippers. But it’s vital not to write off anyone, especially in this most unusual of seasons.
8th-22nd July, NBA Finals
So,it’s all going to come down to the best of seven games to be held over July. One important consideration is that this will clash with the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, so there’s a good chance that a number of the very best players may be missing on international duty.But this shouldn’t take too much of an edge off a series of games that are certain to capture baseball fans’ attention, whoever they support.
It all adds up to a tantalising prospect for a season that might not have happened at all. And, now it’snearly here, it seems like a great idea to really make the most of it.