Only 16 days have elapsed since LeBron James and the Lakers hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in Orlando. Shams Charania has reported the NBA hopes to begin its 2020-21 season in late December, which would be an extremely short turnaround for the Lakers and their Finals opponent, the Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat. The Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets, both finalists in their respective conferences, would have a similarly short rest time ahead of the league’s anticipated December 22nd opening night. When asked of the NBA’s plans for a December restart, Lakers veteran Danny Green scoffed, suggesting players simply won’t show up if the league goes that route.
“I think most guys, if they say we start in December, they’re like, ‘I’m not going to be here,’” predicted Green during his appearance Monday on The Ringer NBA Show. “We have a lot of vets on our team. It’s not like we have a bunch of young guys and rookies.”
Green thinks the NBA’s haste is fueled by a desire to play games on Christmas Day, arguably the league’s flagship event. “I think the league really wants that Christmas Day game,” said Green, a three-time NBA champion for San Antonio, Toronto and now Los Angeles. “But in my mind, I think it’s highly unlikely.”
Of course, Green acknowledged that others might not see it the way he does. “A lot of other stars haven’t played in a long time, they’ve had enough break. Some guys have been out of the bubble for a while. Some teams haven’t played in a year,” said Green, noting that eight of the league’s teams—the Bulls, Cavaliers, Hawks, Hornets, Knicks, Pistons, Timberwolves and Warriors—haven’t seen the floor since the COVID pandemic began in March. “When you lose, you have that chip on your shoulder. You’re ready to get back to it.”
You can understand why the league would want to get back up and running as soon as possible—the NBA is still playing catch-up following its four-month COVID layoff. But as commissioner Adam Silver is well aware, LeBron James is by far the sport’s biggest draw, a certified ratings juggernaut still in the prime of his career. Simply put, the league wouldn’t be the same without him. However, if play resumes in December as expected, Green wouldn’t count on seeing James in uniform much, if at all, during the opening month.
“LeBron’s been in the Finals ten years out of his 17 years, which is unbelievable mentally. It’s draining to do that,” Green explained to hosts Logan Murdock and Raja Bell. “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.”
Would the NBA delay the start of its upcoming season—and potentially punt its marquee Christmas slate—to afford James additional rest coming off an exhausting three-month stay in Orlando? That’s for Silver and the league higher-ups to decide.