3 questions now that the NBA is set to return on Dec. 22

3 questions now that the NBA is set to return on Dec. 22 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The NBA is now on track to return next month with training camps expected to open on Dec. 1 and games to be played beginning Dec. 22. That is quite soon and it could be seen differently depending on whom you ask.

One thing is for sure, though, and that is we still don’t know a lot about what lies ahead for the league.

Here are three questions we don’t yet know the answers to…

How will contenders operate?

For most of the NBA, playing games in Dec. 22 is good news, as they get to return to the court for the first time in months. Some teams haven’t played since August and eight of them haven’t played a game since March. That is a long time to wait.

It is a much different story for the teams that made deep playoff runs. The Lakers and Heat, for example, just finished playing the Finals weeks ago. Now they are likely to open training camp on Dec. 1 and be playing games three weeks after that. Because of the quick turnaround, it would not be surprising at all if some players rested early in the season. Some could even join their teams at a later date. LeBron James, for one, has reason to play it extra safe given his age and career mileage.

Will the offseason be busy or just fast?

We know the draft will be on Nov. 18, but it isn’t clear yet when free agency will begin and even when we know that, it will be difficult to predict how it will operate. One thing is clear and that is there are no superstars available, which means it could be a less-active free agent period than we have grown accustomed to after consecutive years in which James and Kawhi Leonard were on the market. 

But this is still the NBA and crazy things will happen, that we know. They just may have to be in the form of trades. Whatever goes down, it will be in a sprint with training camps starting around two weeks after free agency begins. That could make it seem like a wild offseason no matter what, but it won’t actually qualify as one unless the landscape of the league is shifted.

Will it work without a bubble?

The NBA did an impressive job pulling off their restart bubble in Orlando. It went so smoothly that it is easy to forget just how much went into the planning and how many people were rightfully skeptical they could execute it all. But they did it, crowned a champion and had zero outbreaks of the coronavirus along the way.

Now they are going forward with a much different plan that involves teams playing in their home arenas. At some point, fans may enter the equation. There are going to be far more variables now than there were and, if MLB and the NFL are any indication, we can probably expect some obstacles along the way. Commissioner Adam Silver has earned some benefit of the doubt here given how much better his plan worked than in other leagues, but it could be much harder to keep things under control in this format.

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