It’s official: The NBA is coming back Dec. 22. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced Monday night that they’ve struck a deal on rules for this coming season, setting the stage for what will be a frenzied few weeks before games resume, the AP reports. Teams will play a 72-game schedule, which will be revealed in the coming weeks. The league said a new system will be used to ensure that the split of basketball-related income continues, one of the many details that had to be collectively bargained with the union because the current agreement between the sides had a great deal of language that needed reworking because of the coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations with free agents will be allowed to begin at 6pm on Nov. 20, with signings permitted starting at 12:01pm on Nov. 22—an extraordinarily fast window for the NBA, which typically has about a week spanning the start of talks and the beginning of signings.
But with training camps this year beginning Dec. 1, both sides evidently feel there isn’t a need to draw out the process any longer than necessary. Many rosters could be considerably reshaped by then, with trades likely to be permissible again in the coming days—the exact details there still being worked out—and the NBA draft set to take place Nov. 18. Player and team options likely will be settled around that same time. Free agency starts two days after the draft, with around 100 players set for unrestricted status. The league's board of governors will vote to finalize the deal, which is a formality. NBA general managers also have a meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss matters. There are countless 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 Florida bubble, and nobody tested positive because of the very strict protocols. It'll be much tougher to avoid a COVID-related issue with the league back to some sort of normalcy this season. (Read more NBA stories.)