It looking a lot like Christmas week for Detroit Pistons return

Detroit Pistons Blake Griffin and Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Blake Griffin and Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Detroit Pistons fans might be able to watch their team again by the end of the year. The NBA is reportedly looking to start the 2020-21 season the week of Christmas.

The Detroit Pistons have not played a game since March 13. It had appeared that they were going to have to wait as much as a year for the chance to play a real NBA game again.

However, on Friday, it was widely reported that the league office is recommending the season start December 22. This would have to be agreed upon by the Players Union.

The date was a bit of of a surprise. It was thought by many that the league, which ended its 2019-20 season just two weeks ago, would wait until at least January,  and maybe even March, to begin.

  • In a recent interview, union executive director Michele Roberts had said basically it would be a goal but probably too early to start on Martin Luther King Day in mid-January.

Others had thought that, after suffering devastating financial losses due to COVID-19, owners would wait as long as possible, at least to March, before starting the season, hoping the virus would let up enough allow fans to come to the game at full capacity.

An empty Little Caesars Arena does not bring much revenue.

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However, a confluence of circumstances has created the movement toward the earlier than expected start.

  • Usually there are four months between the NBA finals and the first game of the following season. A Christmas Week start would mean only two months since the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat.

Of course, for the teams like the Pistons that did not make the Bubble in Orlando, they have already been off for months and are anxious to play. Holding things up a couple months more for the handful of teams that went far in Orlando would hurt the others.

  • Television, of course, has a major say in things. The networks get big ratings for their Christmas Day games. Not having them would not have made the NBA’s TV partners (who give them billions a year) happy.

There are also the regional sports network’s desires to consider. Fox Sports Detroit broadcast every Pistons game this past season and having them for winter programming is most helpful.

Many teams count on the money they get from the regional sports networks as much as from the national contracts. Making them happy is also a priority.

  • The Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Tokyo in July presented another problem for the NBA.

The NBA got crushed in the ratings going against all the other major sports that had been delayed, plus the NFL, when it returned to play in Orlando. The last thing they want to do is compete against the world’s biggest sporting event.

Additionally, the NBA players are expected to make up the United States team for the Olympics. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver realizes the public relations hit if the league did not allow its top players to represent their country.

And not just the United States that would affected. Many foreign countries are counting heavily on players in the NBA to lead their respective Olympic basketball teams. That would be another big PR hit Silver wants to avoid.

So the NBA is trying to fashion a schedule that starts December 22 and ends, at the latest, in early July. A regular season of 70 or 72 games is being proposed, as well as more of a baseball scheduling format, with teams playing multiple games in the same city.

  • Of course, the overriding factor is money. The NBA league office reportedly told the Board of Governors in would lose $500 million in revenue if it did not start by late December.

Suddenly, rest, waiting for fans to return (which is not looking like that will happen anytime soon anyhow) and waiting for negotiations for the union to conclude all went out the window.

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Everything still has to be hammered out in negotiations. But it looks like the Pistons did not play their last game of the year when they faced the Philadelphia 76ers on March 13.