The NBA is focusing on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18) for a start date next season, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
Among the issues the league is facing from this unconventional calendar means getting the NBA back on track for normalcy for the 2021-22 season, as in October to June. Before the pandemic shut the NBA down in March, many were openly campaigning to start the season on Christmas Day permanently, largely to avoid conflict with the NFL’s season.
The lower ratings for the just-concluded Finals likely put a little bit of realism in the minds of the decision-makers about the viewing habits of the public as well as the appetite for the players to drag their season well into the summer and to the tip of fall.
It hasn’t been decided whether the NBA can implement a full 82-game schedule, especially with an emphasis on getting some level of attendance in areas and upholding the recently-developed standards concerning player rest, cutting down on the back-to-backs and heavy travel.
The focus for next season, primarily, is getting things finished in a reasonable amount of time for the draft, free agency and rest in the summer of 2021 for a traditional mid-October start.
A Christmas Day start is still in play, approximately a three-and-a-half week gap between the two dates, and while some around the league are optimistic a start can occur closer to the Christmas holiday, it feels more pragmatic to foresee a start around Jan. 18, 2021. The league will give teams a two-month notice before the start of the season.
A Board of Governors meeting is slated for this coming Friday, where commissioner Adam Silver will focus on getting next season started on track. The bubble was a success, but Silver has been talking to owners heading into this week's call, not wanting to bask in the recent history, knowing what’s ahead.
The Louisville Raptors?
One big focus for next season has been the status of the Toronto Raptors. Due to the United States’ handling of COVID-19, travel into Canada has been banned.
The Raptors face a similar dilemma, and league sources tell Yahoo Sports one alternate location that has been broached is Louisville, Kentucky. Former NBA player and successful businessman Junior Bridgeman has been in contact with the NBA, considering Louisville has the KFC Yum! Center that is NBA-ready.
No decision has been made yet, as it’s on a laundry list of topics to be discussed on the upcoming call, along with the collective bargaining agreement, competitive formats for next season and an update on the social justice coalition.
Louisville wouldn’t be first in line in the event of relocation or expansion; Seattle is. But it seems to be an easier sell to get the Raptors in Louisville for a short period — or even sharing a current NBA market, according to sources.
How this goes with the league’s objectives of getting fans in seats is an interesting proposition if the Raptors would play home games in, say, New York or Chicago, given there’s no natural fan base there.
A league official told Yahoo Sports the same line Silver has been parroting for months now, that the virus will determine so much of the league’s actions. It doesn’t appear likely the virus will slow down enough for Canada to open its borders for frequent international travel anytime soon.
The NBA is appearing to take proactive measures similar to its professional counterparts.
Nuggets keeping an eye on Jrue Holiday
Even though official league business hasn’t begun for next season, it hasn’t stopped teams from discussing parameters for trades.
One hot name: New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. According to sources, around 10 teams are inquiring about his services and one team hot after him is the Denver Nuggets, eager to capitalize on their appearance in the West Finals.
Holiday, an All-Defense performer capable of playing both guard spots, averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 assists for the Pelicans this past season and seemingly could fit in with the Nuggets’ youth and recent experience. He’s under contract for next season with a player option for 2021-22 at $27 million, and many teams believe the Pelicans will be looking to shed some salary going into next season.
So much of what Denver or any team can do depends on what the cap looks like, especially with the Nuggets having $107 million committed for next season, highlighted by max deals to stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
One executive theorized a sign-and-trade with Jerami Grant could happen, considering he’s expected to decline his player option and enter free agency.
One to watch: Texas Tech’s Jahmi’us Ramsey
Here’s a name some scouts feel will be a top-five player in a few years: Texas Tech shooting guard Jahmi’us Ramsey.
He’s rated as a late first-round pick but one executive who’s high on him feels Ramsey will ultimately be a point guard.
“He’s big [6-foot-4], strong, will get to his spots,” the executive said. “He doesn’t get a lot of love from the analytics folks because he played with a ball-dominant point guard but he’ll wind up being a lead guard.”
Ramsey shot nearly 43% from 3 in his one season at Texas Tech but surprisingly shot just 64% from the free-throw line. He struggled a bit to finish the conference season, which likely contributed to his stock dropping.
But an executive tells Yahoo Sports it’ll all be forgotten soon enough.
“He’ll be better in the NBA for the spacing and the way this game is played,” the executive said. “He’ll end up, when it’s said and done, like Draymond Green, in five years, people will say he’ll be a top-five player in the draft.”
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