When the NBA released its schedule for the remainder of the 2019-20 season last week, they pegged the start date for the 2020-21 year at December 1. That isn't set in stone yet, but planning on starting the new season less than two months after the end of the previous one proved the league isn't shy about squeezing everything together to keep everything as close to normal as possible.
On a call with general managers today, the NBA indicated that the 2020-21 schedule might be condensed to keep in on a similar timeline as other years and it seems they're still planning on making it an 82-game season.
This means that there will be lots of back-to-backs and four games in five nights for every team in the league, after several years of concentrated attempts by the NBA to prevent those from regularly occurring. Guess what that also means? Lots of load management!
Fans and pundits alike complained about the generous usage of load management by teams such as the Clippers this past season, even though their two superstars have actual injuries that require rest. The league fined both the Clippers and the Timberwolves for resting stars during what was a national broadcast game last year.
The NBA will definitely be lightening up on the fines next season. Load management will be the only realistic avenue teams can traverse in order to ensure their most important players get the rest they need. This will be especially true for whichever pair of squads ends up in the NBA Finals down in Orlando in October. The superstars who drove their teams to a championship in 2020 will get less than half of the usual time to recover for the next 82-game grind. The abbreviated rest period everyone has received since the season was postponed will help, but it won't be the same as a full offseason.
Load management will be the name of the game, then. If the NBA is dead set on getting in 82 games, they and us fans better get used to the best players sitting out more often than ever before. It's simply one of the many consequences that the global pandemic has impressed upon the game of basketball. Nobody needs to be happy about it, but at least there will (hopefully) be sports on, right?