MIAMI – The NBA told its teams Thursday that it intends to return to a normal schedule next season, with training camps opening in late September and the regular season set to begin on Oct. 19.
A memo that was sent to teams, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, does not specify when the 2021-22 regular season will end — and that’s because it has yet to be officially decided if the play-in tournament will return. If it does, and there are no indications that it won’t, the likely date to end the regular season would be April 10.
The return to the normal schedule is not an unexpected development, and Commissioner Adam Silver has said several times that the league's intention for the past several months — virus-permitting — was to get the league back onto its regular calendar after two seasons of schedule havoc because of the pandemic.
But it will lead to another quick turnaround for the teams that make this summer's NBA Finals.
The latest possible date for Game 7 of this season's title series is July 22; training camps for next season are set to begin on Sept. 28, meaning it is possible that this season's finalists are back in camp as little as 68 days following the end of the 2021 finals.
Last season's finalists, the champion Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, had 51 days between the end of the 2020 finals and the start of this season's training camp — with this season's game schedule beginning 72 days after the Lakers won the title at the restart bubble at Walt Disney World.
And the Lakers and the Heat both were eliminated in the first round of this year's playoffs; only two of last season's final eight teams returned to the second round of the postseason in 2021. Questions about fatigued teams were a talking point around the league throughout this season, and likely will be again next season — especially for those clubs that go deepest in this year's playoffs.
“From the moment we entered the bubble to now today, it’s been draining,” Lakers forward LeBron James said after his team was eliminated. “Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally draining. ... Every team has to deal with it, obviously. But with us and Miami obviously going the long haul in the bubble and then coming right back on short notice to this season, it’s been very draining.”