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NBA planning on 72-game schedule starting Dec. 22

The season is expected to finish before the Summer Olympics in mid-July.

Zach LaVine
The Bulls and the 29 other NBA teams won’t be playing a standard schedule in 2020-21.
Getty Images

On Thursday, the NBA is expected to announce a Dec. 22 start to a 72-game schedule for 2020-21, ESPN reported Wednesday.

With the NBA’s board of governors and the players’ association scheduled to hold separate meetings Thursday, the sides are expected to complete details on a reduced schedule for next season.

ESPN reports the sides are in discussions on a salary escrow for players in the range of 18% for the next two years, with team representatives signaling they will approve the deal.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the board of governors are awaiting a formal acceptance of the Dec. 22 date, and both sides expect that will happen this week.

Organizations and players are proceeding with the urgency of a quick turnaround to the start of the season, including the Nov. 18 draft, free agency and training camps starting on Dec. 1, sources told ESPN. Once an agreement is reached, the NBA will lift a moratorium and reopen the league for business on trades before the draft.

The league believes that a Dec. 22 start that includes Christmas Day games on TV 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 told ESPN.

Some players, however, have said starting in December is too soon for teams such as the Lakers and Heat, who were in the Walt Disney World bubble until mid-October for the NBA Finals. Players have been pushing for a 58- or 60-game season that would start on Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 18, the Associated Press reported.

But a January start would mean less revenue on the heels of a season in which the league missed revenue projections by $1.5 billion and 14% of the regular season wasn’t played because of the pandemic — meaning players lost roughly the same percentage of their salaries.

“Honestly, there’s a level of compromise on each side,” Magic player rep Jonathan Isaac said this week. “This has not been easy with everything that’s been thrown at the league and thrown at us just as people are trying to figure things out.

‘‘So there’s a level of compromise on both sides, but we’re continuing to talk.”

Most NBA cities, including Chicago, are still unable to have public gatherings of more than 500 people. The NBA plans to start the season without fans in the arenas — with little confidence that they’ll be able to return anytime early in the season as a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country.