NBA 2020 Season Wrapping Up & What to Expect From 2021

The Los Angeles Lakers celebrating and  holding the trophy after winning the 2020 NBA Championship October 2020

The NBA 2020 season has undoubtedly been one that will stand out in history. We do a brief wrap up on a few of the most unexpected events so far, and also take a look at what the 2021 season might look like.

The unusual circumstances of play in the 2020 season

Just a few weeks ago on October 11, the LA Lakers walked away as 2020 NBA champions. This series between the LA Lakers and the Miami Heat brought an exciting close to what has undoubtedly been one of the craziest seasons of the NBA ever to take place. Let’s take a look at how things panned out in this unbelievable season.

The shut-down

While the NBA had been in communication with various health authorities including the Center for Disease Control, no-one was completely aware of how much COVID-19 had spread, or the impact it would have on people and sports. 

While they had originally planned to continue the league without audiences, a positive COVID-19 test from Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert saw the NBA call for a minimum of a 30-day shutdown. 

In a twisted sense of justice, it was Gobert who had sat in front of the media just a couple of days earlier and stated his lack of concern around the virus. He ended the conference by touching the press mics on the table in front of him to show how little he cared about it, only to test positive two days later. 

The bubble

In June the NBA decided to go ahead with plans to restart the NBA season in an isolation zone referred to as ‘’the bubble’’. The isolation games would take place at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, and cost the NBA $170 million to set up.

Some players were very upset by the decision to move play to the bubble, complaining that it would affect them mentally and physically, due to restrictions around socializing, as well as changes to their diet.

Despite mixed reactions from players and coaches, play resumed on July 22nd. It took teams a while to adjust, with notable teams like the Lakers performing quite badly at the start. While the lack of a home-court advantage may have benefitted some teams at the start and thrown some teams off their game, it wasn’t long before some teams adapted.

The league took a financial hit

Considering the circumstances, it’s not surprising to hear that NBA teams and the overall NBA suffered financial losses this year. With the season being cut short, as well as the lack of fans in the bubble, the NBA and teams lost out on ticket sales, as well as food, drink, and merchandise sales. Statisa.com estimates the potential loss of revenue at $450 million, while non-ticket revenue losses are estimated to be approximately $200 million.

This was in addition to the losses incurred after many Chinese partners cut ties with the NBA in late 2019 — the result of individuals in the NBA sharing messages of supWhat to expect from 2021port to protestors in Hong Kong.v

What to expect from 2021

Jayson Tatum of Boston Celtics against Kyle Lowry of Toronto Raptors during the 2020 NBA Playoffs September 2020

After all the disruptions that have taken place in 2020, it was inevitable that it would affect the start and operations of the 2021 season. While nothing is confirmed yet, information has been released that gives NBA fans hope that we’ll see the return of a more typical NBA season.

Here are some key takeaways from recent announcements, as well as other possibilities for the 2021 NBA season.

There’s no place like home

While the bubble served its purpose, the NBA recognized that it’s really important to figure out if it’s possible for games to return to their home courts, and what needs to be done so that fans can also return to the arenas. It’s possible that if fans do return, it will be under strict regulations, including mandatory masks, rapid COVID-19 testing, and social distancing. 

This will help the League avoid some of the losses they incurred in 2020 due to the complete lack of spectators at games.

The NBA is hoping for an early 2021 start

The start date has been pushed forward several times, with discussions about a starting date of October 21 being moved to early December, and then Christmas Day. In an interview with The Associated Press, Michele Roberts highlighted that conversations needed to be had on two key issues: dealing with the revenue that was lost in 2020, and how to manage the Coronavirus issue moving forward.

“We don’t have to be frozen paralyzed by this virus, but we don’t have to enact a doomsday scenario, assuming that the virus has destroyed our game in ways that will not be repaired”. 

She continued, “if we can sit down like adults, I think we can get a new deal in November and we can announce the start of the season. I don’t have any reason to doubt that we will be able to start in 2021 and have a full season.”

A return to the bubble is a last resort

An empty court and bench at the Eastern Conference 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex August 2020

Roberts and Silver both shared their thoughts on bubbles in the future. 

“Do I want to do it again? Not if I can avoid it,” Roberts stated. However, she also noted, “those are my marching orders: Not if we can avoid it. Now, having said that, the players want to make sure we can save our season again.” 

Silver also noted that he was hoping they would not have to return to another bubble environment.

The league is planning for a full 82-game season

Despite the late start, the NBA is planning to play a full 82-game season in 2021. This means that the schedule would need to be optimized exceptionally well, or the season would end late which in turn would impact 2022.

It will affect players and coaches involved in the Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics are currently expected to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021. In order to qualify for the four remaining spots on the Olympic team, players would need to take part in the final qualifying rounds, which are expected to take place in June. When discussing the impact of this, the Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, said: 

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing.” He continued, “and, obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics for other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through.” 

“These are highly unique and unusual circumstances. I think, just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. We’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations,” he concluded.

Coaches that are likely to be affected by this include Mike Brown, Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, Lloyd Pierce, Nick Nurse, and Sergio Scariolo.

More diversity amongst coaches

Another topic of discussion that came up was around the diversity in coaching in the NBA. Out of a total of 24 coaches (minus the six positions that are currently open), there are only four people of color coaching teams. 

As the NBA moves forward into the next season, steps will be taken to ensure that there is better representation amongst coaching staff.

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