Sources: Player reps approve Dec. 22 NBA start

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The National Basketball Players Association Board of Representatives voted on Thursday night to approve a plan for a December 22 start to the season that includes a reduced 72-game schedule, clearing the way for league and union to finalize details on the 2020-2021 season, sources tell ESPN.

The NBPA’s Board of Players Representatives voted to approve the pre-Christmas start in a conference call with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, sources said. The NBA and NBPA are planning to discuss the opening of free agency as quickly as possible after the November 18 NBA draft to accommodate player movement with such a short window to the opening of training camps on Dec. 1, sources said.

The league and players are still negotiating financial terms of an amended collective bargaining agreement and those talks are expected to extend into next week, sources said. Once a formal agreement is reached, the league will lift a moratorium and re-open the league for business on trades prior to the Nov. 18 NBA draft.

The league believes that a Dec. 22 start that includes Christmas Day games on television and allows for a 72-game schedule that finishes before the Summer Olympics in mid-July is worth between $500 million and $1 billion in short and long term revenues to the league and players, sources said.

The NBA and NBPA have discussed significant rises in the escrow withholding on players’ salaries to account for the severe losses in league revenue during the pandemic. The sides are working toward spreading out the players losses over multiple seasons, so the players don’t take such a substantial financial hit in one year.

The NBA has pushed back a deadline to Friday that keeps open the option of terminating the collective bargaining agreement, which would essentially blow up the league’s financial structure that allows for a 50-50 split of Basketball Related Income (BRI) under the provisions of the CBA. Because of the pandemic triggering a Force Majeure clause in the CBA, both sides have the option of serving notice of 45 days on terminating the agreement, sources said.

The NBA and NBPA split the Basketball Related Income, and the league recently told teams that 40 percent of that revenue could be lost without gate receipts this season, sources said. The NBA’s basketball-related income was down $1.5 billion last season, according to data provided to teams and obtained by ESPN.

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