What the NBA’s December start plans means everything speeds up for the Orlando Magic

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Markelle Fultz, Steve Clifford, Orlando Magic
A limited roster forced Steve Clifford to try some funky lineups. Finding shooting would make dong that so much easier. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA is planning to start its 2021 season in December. That will have several consequences and for the Orlando Magic to make some decisions.

The biggest question facing the NBA has been to fill in all the details.

After the Nov. 18 Draft, officially announced earlier this week, there was a fair amount of mystery as to when the NBA season will start again. The league and the players association still have to renegotiate the salary cap for this season, hoping to blunt any massive drops in the salary cap for planning purposes for the team and maintain some competitive stability.

Everyone assumed the league would still take a breath and give everyone time to get their feet settled. Nobody even knows when free agency will begin.

There is a lot at stake for the NBA. They have certain guarantees to their television partners to fulfill. They learned they have to have their season finished by the end of June or else television ratings and other traditional metrics for viewership will lag. And they still have a pandemic to plan around. If they want fans in the building, things are not looking good for them.

The general consensus was the league would wait and aim for either a Martin Luther King Jr. Day start in late January or something in early February around when the All-Star Game would take place (essentially Valentines’ Day).

So it was surprising after the league seemed so cautious and strategic with its planning that word leaked out the NBA was planning for a Christmas Day start, aiming for Dec. 22 as the potential start date for the season.

The reported plan is for teams to play a 70-72-game season beginning in late December. A lot of this structure is still under negotiation. But the plan would allow the league to get in nearly a full season and end on time so the 2022 calendar will return to an October-June season and so players could participate in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.

There is still a lot to sort out. And suddenly there is not a lot of time to sort through it.

That Dec. 22 date is only eight weeks away. That means the NBA Draft takes place in about three weeks and then there is merely five weeks to get through free agency, the offseason and training camp before the season begins.

That is not a lot of time. But at least players will have an end date to ramp up their preparations for the start of the season.

Clearly, the owners are trying to put some pressure on the players to accept this expedited timeline.

For a team like the Orlando Magic, this is definitely a major wrench in their plans. This revised schedule is going to create a lot of problems for a team that seems ripe for change but still envisions itself competing for the postseason.

There will be a lot of consequences to this season — many unintended.