Although NBA team executives want the 2020-21 season to start on Dec. 22 in order to salvage the league's annual Christmas Day slate of games, and in order to recoup some of the financial losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, players around the league aren't as keen on the idea of starting a new season so quickly.
As an alternative, the players are fighting to begin the season on Jan. 18, which is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, another prominent day on the league's calendar, in order to get a more substantial offseason. If that happens, then the upcoming season could be a 50-game schedule, per the New York Times' Marc Stein, in order to complete the season before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics begin.
This has less to do about allowing players to participate in the Olympics, and more to do with satisfying television partners, as they don't want the NBA to clash with the summer games, per Stein. However, the league's TV partners are hoping for a Dec. 22 start, something they are reportedly "adamant" about, per the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds, likely in order to have a longer schedule, which in turn means more revenue.
Whatever is decided upon, though, whether it's starting in December and playing a 72-game schedule, or waiting until January and playing 50 games, the league has to move quickly now in making these decisions. Players are required to receive an eight-week notice ahead of when the upcoming season will start, and if Dec. 22 is going to be the start date, then other things need to be planned out in order to make that happen. Once the start date is confirmed, then the league will have to decide when free agency starts, which has been rumored to take place a couple of days after the NBA Draft on Nov. 18.
The players still have a say in these decisions, though, and if they decide that starting in December is too soon, then it gives the league a bit more runway to map out next season, and the one after that as well.