NBA timeline, key dates: League, NBPA tentatively agree on start of 2020-21 season; NBA Draft set for Nov. 18

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The NBA managed to navigate an unprecedented pandemic to finish the 2019-20 season, and after weeks of fraught negotiations, the league now appears close to accomplishing the even more daunting task of setting a schedule for the 2020-21 campaign. The NBPA has tentatively agreed to start the season on Dec. 22, with 72 games on the schedule. 

The league office and ownership pushed aggressively on that front, planning for an incredibly short offseason in the hopes of getting the NBA back to its normal October-June schedule in time for the 2021-22 season. The NBA pushed for that Dec. 22 start date, which would have given the two Finals teams only around two months for an offseason, and naturally, players have pushed back on that aggressive timeframe. Their preference was for a Jan. 18 start on Martin Luther King Day, but after Thursday’s vote, they appear on board for December. 

Below is the schedule of the events involving the upcoming NBA Draft and everything else leading up to the 2020-21 campaign. For now, it is based on the assumption that the league will eventually settle on a Dec. 22 start. 

Upcoming NBA schedule

Sept. 28: Beginning of Draft Combine (through early-to-mid November)Oct. 16-Nov. 16: Teams can begin to conduct in-person interviews with draft prospects Nov. 18: 2020 NBA Draft
Nov. 20-22: Proposed start of free agencyDec. 1: Proposed start date to begin training camps for 2020-21 seasonDec. 22: Proposed opening night for 2020-21 season 

Those last three dates are not technically set in stone. Negotiations between the NBA and the NBPA are ongoing, on a number of other matters. But the expectation should still be for training camps to open around Dec. 1. The beginning of free agency is more fluid. Teams are preparing as if it could begin as early as Nov. 20, but there is some leeway within that projection. So long as the early portion of free agency is finished in time for the beginning of training camp, there is no exact date in place. 

With the 2019-20 season safely completed, the league will shift focus on its short-term future, with some very important decisions still on the table. For now, though, the biggest appears close to being settled. The season is expected to start before Christmas. 


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