The global pandemic shut down a huge slice of American life, the NBA included, but its peripheral effects have served aging basketball players well.
LeBron James, 35, was as rested and refreshed as he’s ever been when the NBA resumed its season, leading the Lakers to a title on Oct. 11. But the extended 2019-20 season also dramatically shortened this offseason, and if the league opts for a December return, James may not be participating immediately.
LeBron’s Lakers teammate Danny Green said he “wouldn’t expect to see” James – at least for the first month or so – if the NBA succeeds in negotiating a Dec. 22 opening night.
Owners are hopeful that the date sticks, and players are largely expected to agree, given the amount of money to be available.
But that would cut the normal offseason time in half. The traditional downtime is more than four and a half months; this year’s time off would be nearly two months shorter, at about 73 days.
“Dec. 22 is not on my mind,’’ Green said on the basketball podcast The Ringer. “I think most guys, if you say they’re starting in December, I think they’re like, ‘I’m not going to be there.’ Because we have a lot of vets on our team. …
“Bron’s been in the finals 10 years out of his 17 years, which is unbelievable mentally. … To have that quick a restart, I wouldn’t expect to see him there. I wouldn’t expect to see him (in a game) probably the first month of the season.”
As always, money talks.
The NBA league office told its board of governors that the projected value of the season would be more than $500 million, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, with half of that going to players under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.