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NBA return timeline, key dates: League sets schedule for season restart, draft, free agency, start of 2020-21

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Coronavirus cases in Florida continue to mount, but the NBA is still moving ahead with plans to resume the season on July 30 at Disney World, with teams traveling to Orlando between July 7-9. There will be 22 teams in attendance, each playing eight regular season or “seeding” games before moving on to a normal playoff format. 

Due to the extenuating circumstances, there have obviously been massive changes to the schedule. After so many months off, the league has had to adjust not only the remainder of this season, but its offseason and 2020-21 timelines as well. Based on the NBA’s health guidelines obtained by CBS Sports as well as reporting from The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, below is the tentative schedule of key NBA dates for the rest of 2020. 

  • June 23: Transaction window opens
  • June 24: Soft deadline for players to decide not to play at Disney
  • June 30: Transaction window ends
  • July 1: Mandatory individual workouts begin
  • July 1: Hard deadline for players to decide not to play at Disney
  • July 7: Nets, Nuggets, Magic, Suns, Jazz and Wizards travel to Orlando
  • July 8: Celtics, Mavericks, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Pelicans, Thunder and Kings travel to Orlando
  • July 9: Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Bucks, 76ers, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Raptors travel to Orlando
  • July 9-21: Team training camps
  • July 22-29: Inter-squad scrimmages.
  • July 30: Beginning of restarted 2019-20 season 
  • Aug. 15-16: Play-in tournament
  • Aug. 17: Beginning of Round 1 of postseason
  • Aug. 25: NBA Draft Lottery
  • Aug. 30: Player guests arrive in Orlando
  • Aug. 31: Beginning of Round 2 of postseason
  • Sep. 15: Beginning of conference finals
  • Sep. 30: Beginning of NBA Finals
  • Oct. 12: Game 7 of the NBA Finals (if necessary)
  • Oct. 16: NBA Draft
  • Oct. 18: Start of free agency
  • Nov. 10: Training camps for 2020-21 season begin 
  • Dec. 1: Opening night for 2020-21 season 

While it should be noted that Charania described the training camp and opening night dates for next season as fluid, the potentially condensed nature of the offseason stands out here. Teams that make the NBA Finals could potentially have less than a month to recover before starting training camp for the following season. That would theoretically put them at a major disadvantage for the 2020-21 campaign. Supporters will argue that every team got at least four months off because of the pandemic, but with access to gyms so limited, the impact that time off will have had on their bodies is currently unknown.

Front offices will also feel the crunch. Typically, teams have more time between the end of their season and the start of the offseason to plan out their strategies. But now, the Draft comes only three days after the Finals, with free agency coming only three days after that. Theoretically, a player could hoist the championship trophy and be a member of a new team in less than a week. 

As far as this season goes, the NBA has seemingly emphasized the idea of teams reaching full strength before the playoffs. We still have nearly two months to wait before games begin, and the concluded regular season should give teams a chance to get into game shape before the postseason begins. 

This situation is ultimately unprecedented, and anything could change depending on the state of the pandemic. For now, though, the NBA has moved past the planning stage and is taking action to bring basketball back. 

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