The NBA and the players’ union reached an agreement late Monday night on several critical issues that help clarify the offseason calendar as the league prepares for a quick turnaround going into its 2020-21 season.

NBA free agency negotiations will begin on Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. PST, less than 48 hours after the draft and just 10 days before players are expected to report to training camp – setting up a frenetic marketplace for team front offices as they try to squeeze roster construction and the balancing of books into a matter of days. Free agent signings will be permitted starting at 9:01 a.m. PST on Nov. 22. There is typically about a week spanning the start of talks and the beginning of signings.

The two sides also locked in key financial terms for the upcoming season – a reduced 72-game slate that begins Dec. 22 – including a $109.1 million salary cap and a $132.6 million luxury tax cap.

While the NBA is anticipating a steep decline in revenue for next year that will affect bottom lines, keeping the cap and tax figures steady should help bring stability to an offseason that has been roiled in uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA and NBPA also agreed to terms to keep up to 20 percent of player salaries in escrow for the next two seasons while the league determines how much of a revenue hit it will take next year.

The short turnaround of the offseason reflects the urgency the NBA is feeling to recoup television revenue and re-track to its traditional schedule in a season when it expects few fans to be allowed to attend games. After finishing the 2019-20 season in the bubble at Disney World in Florida in October, the NBA is scurrying to start a season that would finish no later than July 22. The league and the NBPA agreed in separate meetings to those terms last week before hammering out more details this week in a joint effort.

For the teams in Los Angeles, both expected to be title contenders, the shortened offseason represents an added constraint to getting back to the top. The defending champion Lakers are widely expected to re-sign star free agent Anthony Davis to a max salary contract, but they now have limited financial wiggle room to build their roster around him and LeBron James. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are both under contract for next season with the Clippers, but the team will look to add pieces to improve on last season’s second-round playoff exit.

The NBA has not yet lifted a moratorium on transactions (trades, contract opt-ins and opt-outs): ESPN reported that the league has discussed lifting it two to three days before the draft.

The league’s board of governors will vote to finalize the amended CBA, which is a formality. NBA general managers also have a meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss matters.

The regular-season schedule is expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, but there are still several other issues to work out, such as all the health and safety protocols now that games won’t be played in the safety of a bubble and teams will be traveling to various cities once again.

Players were tested daily in the bubble, and nobody tested positive because of the very strict protocols. It will be much tougher to avoid a COVID-related issue with the league back to some sort of normalcy this season.

“There’s going to be people testing positive,” said Meyers Leonard, a free-agent-to-be who spent this past season with the Miami Heat and served as the team’s player rep to the NBPA. “I don’t know about left and right, but it’s going to happen. And then what happens? It’s a tough time we’re all dealing with. The disease is very strange. It’s going to be interesting to see how the league rolls with the punches, so to speak.”

News services contributed to this story.


By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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