The NBA has set its start date for the 2021 season and it will be a quick turnaround that will not give the Orlando Magic much chance to plan.
The NBA’s offseason has been met with a tinge of uncertainty.
Once the teams started leaving the bubble at Disney they did not know when they would meet again. There would be a 2021 season eventually. But nobody wanted to go through the laborious and isolating experience of the bubble again.
The league was going to try to endeavor to have teams travel to home stadiums. They were holding out hope that they would be able to have fans in the building as the nation beat back the virus.
That feels like a pipe dream now. But the financial realities remain. The season needed to press on. The television partners wanted to make sure they got their Christmas Day games and the NBA wanted to be done before the Olympics — currently scheduled for July 23, 2021, but that sure feels like wishful thinking right now.
For a team like the Orlando Magic, that meant a congested offseason. It means that for every team.
The season ended at Disney on Oct. 11. It has only been a month since the season concluded. It will be another six weeks before the season begins again. Everyone is dealing with a quick turnaround.
But for players trying to figure out when the season will begin Monday proved to be an important date. Now there is a finish line.
For a front office expected to make changes and start pushing the franchise, they too know the parameters of the game they are playing. Even if there is a compressed time period to get it all done.
The NBA officially announced they will play a 72-game season on Dec. 22 for its 2021 season. The league also announced the salary cap for the 2021 season will stay flat at $109.1 million with the tax level at $132.6 million.
Trades are set to resume on Nov. 16, two days before the Draft. Free agency negotiations will begin Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. ET with players able to sign their contracts beginning at noon on Nov. 22.
From there, it is safe to assume training camps will open sometime around Dec. 1 with the season beginning a few weeks later.
There is the finish line for the players to get themselves physically ready for what is sure to be a demanding and grueling season. There is the start line for front offices as they plan and manage the changes they will make to their teams.
At this point, nobody knows what effect the quick offseason — with its few free agents at that — will have on the transaction period. Teams very well might go conservative and bring back a lot of their rosters. Especially teams like the Magic situated in the middle and not clearly ready to go all-in on this season or completely restart.
The coaches are dealing with an entirely new channel. It is one similar to what they faced heading into the Disney campus too. They are not quite sure where their players are at and with a shortened preseason and opportunity to get everyone’s playing conditioning up to standard.
Magic coach Steve Clifford was at an event where the Magic donated a court to Harbor House alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Clifford said there will be challenges to this season and for now, he is planning only minor tweaks to where they left the team off last year.
That at least leaves some suggestion Clifford is planning to have most of his team intact. Clifford said he treated the play stoppage like it was an offseason and they implemented part of those changes heading into the bubble.
Clifford said he does not plan to change a lot of things heading into training camp. That would seemingly assume there will not be too many new players on the roster. Although they will all have to get caught up to speed.
As Clifford says all the time, his job as the coach is to work with the players available to him that day. He is not typically concerned about who is not there or what is happening behind the scenes as he approaches and works with players.
The biggest factor for the Magic, and for every team, will be health. Orlando had rotten luck throughout the season and especially when the team got into the bubble for the restart.
Now, everyone is healthy again — Aaron Gordon is back to playing and recently posted some workout video on his Instagram, Michael Carter-Williams is healthy again and Al-Farouq Aminu has been in the Magic’s training facility recovering (as has Chuma Okeke, reportedly).
Players will start trickling back into town to prepare for the season. Evan Fournier, for instance, returned from France this weekend and took an Instagram video of his return to the Magic’s locker room at Amway Center. Terrence Ross never left and has been working out at the Magic’s practice facility often — and sneaking into the WWE ThunderDome.
But as Ross notes here. Nobody knows what will happen in this sped-up offseason. Players who sign new contracts or are acquired through trade will have to move quickly to settle into their new homes. They may not join their teams until training camp is already underway.
All there might be time for is a couple of quick tweaks to where the team left off in August. And the hope for internal improvement to get the team moving forward again.
What is important for now is the Magic and the NBA have their finish line to the offseason and their start line for the season.