A typical NBA offseason stretches approximately four months. The NBA Finals conclude in the middle of June, and the following season’s opener comes in October. If the NBA’s current plan to start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22 holds up, however, the two finalists from last season would have only around two months off to prepare. The 2020 Finals concluded on Oct. 11.
Lakers guard Danny Green views that as a problem. He is 33 years old and plays for an aging Lakers team. Asking them to come back and play so soon after the end of last season is so unrealistic in his eyes that he suggested that certain players might not even be willing to show up on time. On an appearance on The Ringer NBA Show, he hinted that some older Lakers might not even play early in the season.
“I think most guys, if they say we’re starting in December, I think they’re like ‘I’m not gonna be there,'” Green said. “If I had to guess, because we have a lot of vets on our team, it’s not like we have a bunch of young guys and rookies, we’ll probably have three or four young guys and rookies, say we’re fortunate enough to bring the same team back. We have [Rajon Rondo] who’s on Year 15, Dwight [Howard] who’s in Year 17, [LeBron James] who’s in Year 18. These guys just played a whole season, Bron’s been in the Finals 10 years out of his 17 years, which is unbelievable mentally. It’s straining to do that, and to have that quick of a restart, I wouldn’t expect to see him there, I wouldn’t expect to see him probably for the first month of the season. He’ll probably be working out with us, but I just don’t expect guys to want to be there or show up willingly.”
It’s unclear how serious Green was being. There was a fair bit of laughter involved, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which the Lakers play the regular season cautiously. James will turn 36 less than two weeks after next season is slated to begin. If the NBA is going to force him back onto the court so soon after winning his fourth championship, they shouldn’t be surprised if he takes his sweet time easing back into the season. Lakers forward Jared Dudley made that very suggestion on Twitter.
The NBA is a star-driven league. A Dec. 22 start date makes next season significantly harder on its most popular team and several of its most important players. Those players and teams are going to ease into the season at their own pace, and the NBA shouldn’t be surprised if that leads to an inferior product. In all likelihood, the Lakers probably won’t sit players out early in the season. LeBron will probably be active for opening night. But load management would be the norm for he and Anthony Davis, and possibly a number of other stars around the league.