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Silver: ‘Best guess’ is next season won’t start until January ... but in front of fans

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Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

In an interview with Bob Costas on CNN, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he thinks it’s more likely that the 2020-21 season will start instead in January 2020 ... at the earliest.

But he said he’s hopeful that when the league does re-start, fans will be part of the experience.

“I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January,” Silver said in a discussion during the “Citizen by CNN” event. “The goal for us next season is to play a standard season ... an 82-game season and playoffs. And further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans, but there’s still a lot that we need to learn.”

One suggestion rumbling around the league is that NBA games could start again around Martin Luther King weekend in the middle of January. MLK Day next year is January 18. A restart around the time of Martin Luther King Day would mean the Nets wouldn’t play for five months. Teams like the Knicks who didn’t make the playoffs would have a 10 month hiatus, from March to January.

The league was originally hoping for a Dec. 1 start to next season, then shifted its focus to the chance of a late December start, and now the target has apparently moved again. The league also has moved back things like the Draft. A virtual Draft had original been slated for October 18. It now is tentatively set for November 18.

The league, of course, hasn’t played in front of fans since March 11 and if arenas are open, it’s likely audiences would be limited, perhaps to 5,000 to 6,000 at an arena like Barclays Center ... depending on local rules and regulations.

On Tuesday afternoon, New York City tweeted out a reminder about big gatherings...

One big issue would a conflict between the end of the restarted season and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. It’s not just that NBA players couldn’t (or wouldn’t) play in the Olympics. The Team USA head coach for example is Gregg Popovich whose top priority will be the Spurs. Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce are his assistants. Three other NBA coaches are set to be head coaches for other national teams.

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver said. “And, obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics for other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through.”

However, Silver noted as well that the NBA can’t delay based on what the Olympics may or may not do next summer.

“It is a factor in our planning,” Silver said of the Olympics. “It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear.”

USA Basketball has been planning for various possible scenarios in recent months, AP reports, but can’t make any concrete plans until it sees what the next NBA schedule officially looks like. The U.S. roster for the Tokyo Olympics will be 12 players and another 34 players competing for other countries at the Rio Olympics.

The Nets have three Team USA alumni from 2016: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. In addition, Spencer Dinwiddie is committed to Nigeria (or at least was before he contracted COVID-19) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot could play for France.

“These are highly unique and unusual circumstances,” Silver said. “And I think just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. And we’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations.”

Silver also spoke about the NBA’s relationship with China which has been basically non-existent since Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted (then deleted) his support for the Hong Kong democracy movement. The incident led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

“There are definitely tradeoffs there and somebody could say given the system of government in China you, the NBA, should make a decision not to operate there,” Silver told Costas. “I would only say that at the end of the day, I think those are decisions for our government in terms of where American business should operate. I continue to believe that the people to people exchanges we’re seeing by playing in China are positive, and it’s helping — it helps cultures learn about each other.

“Again, it allows us to export sort of American values to China.”

Joe Tsai of course penned a controversial Facebook post at the time in which he tried to explain the protests in the context of Chinese nationalism but in doing so, spurred criticism when he referred to the protest as “separatist.”