Adam Silver says ‘best guess’ is new NBA season won’t start until 2021

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Oct. 23, 2019.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday afternoon that his “best guess” about the start of the 2020-21 NBA season is that it won’t actually begin until after the new year, but that his goal remains for the league to play as close to “a standard season” as is possible.

When the league originally formed its restart plan following months of hiatus due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the original target timeline for the 2020-21 campaign was Dec. 1, though Silver subsequently told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols last month that the date was “feeling a little bit early to me.”

On Tuesday, in a wide-ranging interview with Bob Costas on CNN, Silver said that as recently as a week ago, he and others in the league had held out hope for a Christmas start, but that as new information about COVID-19 continues to emerge — including from infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday — he has again adopted a more conservative timeline.

“The more I’m learning, even listening to Dr. Fauci this morning, I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January,” Silver said.

Asked by Costas how the late start to the season might impact its format and how it’s played out, Silver explained that he is shooting for something approaching normalcy.

“The goal for us next season is to play a standard season — an 82-game season and playoffs. And further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans,” he said. “But there’s still a lot that we need to learn, in terms of rapid testing, for example. Would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings? Will there be other protections?”

Getting fans into games remains a big priority for Silver and the league, as he said during the hiatus that approximately 40% of the NBA’s annual revenue is directly tied to having fans in arenas.

Silver added that the NBA continues to gain knowledge from its own bubble setup in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as well as from the various coronavirus protocols being put in place by MLB, the NFL and college football programs.

As a result, the NBA hopes to have an abundance of options on how best to proceed going forward.

“There’s lots of new information out there in the marketplace that we’re looking to absorb,” Silver said.

In the meantime, the league remains in a bit of a state of flux.

After several delays, the annual draft has now been officially scheduled for Nov. 18. The timing of the league’s free agency signing period, however, remains unknown for now. Both the league and the players have already reached several agreements to push back deadlines that exist within their Collective Bargaining Agreement, as the league works to examine its revenue situation and establish commensurate salary cap and luxury tax figures.