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Clippings: Here’s what we do and don’t know about the 2020-21 NBA season

The offseason is about to go into high gear.

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Three Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

The player representatives from each team “tentatively” agreed Thursday to the league’s proposal to start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22 and play 72 games before the playoffs. It’s possible that the plan falls apart, but for now, regular season basketball should be returning in just over six weeks.

However, just because the league has a date, that doesn’t mean the rest of the details are in order. As of now, there is more unknown than known about the upcoming NBA season, so let’s sort through what has been and what is yet to be determined.

The draft has been scheduled for Nov. 18. Traditionally, free agency begins after the draft, though there was some interest from the NPBA about beginning the process earlier since training camp is supposed to begin on Dec. 1. That appears to be a non-starter as the league will barely have time to get its financials in order before the draft itself.

A 72-game schedule means that each team could play conference opponents three times and non-conference opponents twice. However, if the league is trying to cut down travel, it might want to reduce the number of East-West games. Previous reports have indicated that the NBA has considered pods and baseball-type series when two teams play each other on consecutive nights. The number of games is a good starting point, but there are many ways to get to that total.

The league has been bracing for the possibility of no fans during the regular season, but is now starting to explore workarounds. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the NBA wants to start filling its suites at less than 50 percent capacity. That will depend on the local regulations in each team’s market, which means ticket availability could vary across the league.

The players and the league have reportedly agreed to an escrow of about 18 percent, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, over multiple seasons so that this year’s free agency class isn’t disproportionately affected by the drop in revenue. The players traditionally hold about 10% in escrow, and the Board of Governors was pushing for 25%, so this feels like a good compromise.

Finally, the league still hasn’t put any safety protocols about how to protect the health of the players and all other NBA personnel while the pandemic rages on. Considering the rigorous safety procedures applied in the bubble, one would expect the league to put similar effort into this upcoming season’s protocols, even if teams will be playing in their local markets. The NBA will have to figure out how to protect its players from the coronavirus under this new model, and will also likely need to have contingency plans if and when players contract the virus.

As a basketball fan, it’s a good thing to see the league return so soon. But there are legitimate concerns about the viability of playing sports without a bubble, and the NBA has a lot of work left to do to address those issues.

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