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The NBA Just Announced the 2020-21 Regular Season Calendar and Format (Complete with a Play-In Tournament)

Chicago Bulls

On the eve of the 2020 NBA Draft – and just a few days before free agency begins – the NBA has revealed plans for the 75th regular season, which, as previously reported, will begin on December 22nd and feature 72 games for each team. But there’s a LOT more to the 2020-21 NBA Season than that.

2020-21 NBA Season

The Play-In Tournament:

Among some of the highlights from that release:

•   A Play-in tournament! There will be a play-in tournament at the end of the regular season, including the 7th-10th seeds, that was determine the final two playoff seedings for each conference. The NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved this proposal earlier today, but just for the 2020-2021 season. We’ll see if it sticks beyond that.

•   Play-in Tournament (cont.): At the end of the regular season, the 7th seed will host the 8th seed in a Play-in Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of that game will be the seventh seed in the playoffs for its conference. Meanwhile, the 9th seed will host the 10th seed (the “Nine-Ten Game”) for the 9th seed in the playoffs for its conference. As you might expect, the loser of the Seven-Eight game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten game.

•   Play-in Tournament (cont.): The 7th and 8th seeds will then have two chances to win just one game to earn their spot in the postseason. In other words, the 9th and 10th seeds will have to win two consecutive games on the road to sneak in past them. With fewer games than usual on the docket and the potential for wonky schedules due to postponements, I’m all for trying this out … for a year.

The 2020-21 NBA Schedule

•   Schedule release: The first-half schedule will be announced around the start of training camp and the second half will be released during the latter part of the first half of the season. This is largely to preserve flexibility for any necessary makeups or postponements.

•   Some additional schedule quirks: 

⇒   Each team will play three games against each intraconference opponent (42 total games per team) with each pairing featuring either two home games and one road game (or vice versa). The league has randomly assigned which two opponents will be played twice at home and which two will be played twice on the road.

⇒   All five teams from within a division will play all five teams from one other intraconference division, twice at home, and all five teams from the remaining intraconference division twice on the road.

⇒   Each team will play two games against each interconference opponent (30 total games per team) with each pairing featuring one home and one road game.

The (Tentative) Calendar

⇒   Preseason Games: December 11 – December 19th, 2020
⇒   First-half: December 22, 2020 – March 4th, 2021
⇒   All-Star break: March 5 – March 10, 2021
⇒   Second-half: March 11 – May 16th, 2021
⇒   Play-In Tournament: May 18-21, 2021
⇒   Playoffs: May 22 – July 22, 2021

Basketball is coming, my friends. And while it’s going to look very different than everything we’re used to seeing, the Chicago Bulls will (finally) be run by capable leaders with a cogent, long-term plan. Plus, armed with yet another lottery pick and a brand new head coach, the expanded playoff field could be their ticket back to playoff relevance.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami