The Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions, defeating the Miami Heat earlier this week to win their 17th title in franchise history. Their win officially closed the books on the 2019-20 season, one which began over a year ago, and has easily been the most unique and memorable of all-time.
With the bubble experiment all wrapped up, the league can breathe a sigh of relief that they were able to successfully pull off that impressive logistical feat and crown a champion without any positive COVID-19 cases. Unfortunately, there's little time to celebrate, as they still have all sorts of hurdles to clear to figure what to do about next season.
The original Dec. 1 target start date is absolutely not happening, and Adam Silver said recently that the league was looking at early 2021 to begin next season, which will officially be the 2020-21 campaign, even though it will happen exclusively in 2021. As for a specific date, Jan. 18 -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- is now the new target, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic.
Once Silver said the league was looking at some time in January, MLK Day always seemed like the logical choice. It's become an increasingly important date on the NBA calendar over the past few years and presents an easy way for the league to turn opening night into a real event. As for when we'll know for sure, Hollinger noted that the league is planning to give teams eight weeks notice ahead of the start of the season, which would mean Nov. 23.
After nailing down the start date, the league then has to move on to the more challenging prospect of actually designing the schedule. It's still unclear if the COVID-19 situation is going to be under control enough for fans to be in arenas for all or part of next season, which will impact the league's decision making on that front. Other logistical issues they'll have to take into account are whether or not travel restrictions will be in place for the Toronto Raptors in terms of going to and from Canada, and the Olympics. Silver said earlier this month that it's unlikely the league will pause for the Tokyo Games, but they'll still have to take that event into account when planning next season.
Furthermore, Hollinger noted that the league is looking at the possibility of playing multi-game series, similar to baseball in order to cut down on travel, and speed up how fast they can get through the season. With teams only playing each other a few times each season, this isn't something the league has done before, but drastic times call for innovation. Plus, we've seen in the bubble how less travel can improve the quality of play, so there could be additional benefits besides organizational ones.
All told, the league still has a lot to work through over the next few months, but it does seem like a rough outline is in place. The 2020 NBA Draft is set for Nov. 18, with free agency to follow in the next few weeks. Then, before we know it, teams will be getting back together for training camp, and we'll be tipping off a new season.