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NBA timeline, key dates: League sets start times for team camps, 2020-21 season, cancels 2021 All-Star Game

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The 2020-21 NBA season is just around the corner as the league is operating at a rapid pace to get everything sorted out before the regular season tips on Dec. 22. The league and the NBPA agreed to a 72-game schedule, and negotiated an amended CBA to account for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The short time frame forced the NBA Draft and free agency to take place just two days apart, but the short turnaround didn’t slow down any of the usual action we see in the offseason. Teams traded and signed players left and right, even with the majority of the league operating with slimmer wallets than in the past.  

Training camps will open on Dec. 1, with the first half of the regular-season schedule expected to be released at some point during that time. The league is going to release the schedule in portions, in order to leave room for make-up games if necessary due to the pandemic.

Furthermore, the league and the NBPA also hashed out some important financial concerns for the upcoming season. The salary cap will be $109.1 million and the luxury tax $132.6 million, both the same as last season. As for the escrow — the amount of money withheld from the players in case the league doesn’t meet revenue projections — it will remain at the standard 10 percent to start the season. If there’s any need to increase that percentage, it will be spread out over multiple seasons, with the number never rising above 20 percent in one season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This is a win for the players, considering that earlier in the offseason agents had reportedly been bracing for the possibility of a 40 percent escrow. 


Concerned about such a quick turnaround from last season, players were initially hesitant about starting the season prior to Christmas, and had been pushing for a Jan. 18 start on Martin Luther King Day. Eventually, however, the financial incentives for starting the season early proved too enticing, and they accepted the league’s proposal. 

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The league also opted to cancel the 2021 All-Star Game due to health concerns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Indianapolis, which was set to host the event, will get its opportunity in 2024.

Below is the schedule of the events leading up to the 2020-21 campaign.  

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. 16: Trade moratorium lifted
  • Nov. 18: 2020 NBA Draft
  • Nov. 20: Start of free agency
  • Dec. 1: Start date to begin training camps for 2020-21 season
  • Dec. 11-19: Preseason games take place
  • Dec. 22: Opening night for 2020-21 season 

With the path cleared for the season to start on Dec. 22, the league is focusing on its short-term future to get through this pandemic while playing games in each team’s home market rather than in a bubble environment.

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