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The schedule format for the 2020-21 NBA season is — interesting

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The schedule itself will be released in two halves, beginning around Dec. 1.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA has announced that the schedule for the 72-game 2020-21 NBA season will be released on two halves. According to ESPN, the first part of the schedule, which will be played from December 22 to March 4, will be released around December 1 (the beginning of training camp). The break in the schedule will be from March 5-10. (ESPN refers to this as the “All-Star Break”, although as of now there has been no mention of an All-Star game being played, plus that’s a much shorter break than usual.)

During this time the league will set the second half of the schedule, which will be played March 11 through May 16. The reason for the delay in releasing the second half of the schedule is to reassess and accommodate any games that were postponed in the first half of the season. There’s no promise that all canceled games can be made up, but any that “can reasonably be added” will.

The set up for the 72-games of the regular season will be as follows, and it’s a bit wonky:

Each NBA team will play the teams within its conference three times for a total of 42 games, while playing the teams from the opposing conference twice each (30 games).

Within each team’s division, the league has already assigned which opponents will be played twice at home, and which will be played twice on the road.

Each division within a conference will then play all five teams from another intraconference division twice at home, and all five teams from the remaining division twice on the road.

From the Spurs perspective, they will play 42 games against the Western Conference and 30 against the East. Nonconference games will presumably be equally split home-road (although it is not mentioned here), but it gets crazy on the in-conference side. Against their four Southwest Division opponents — the Mavericks, Rockets, Pelicans and Grizzlies — the Spurs will have a 2-1 game homecourt advantage in two series (yet to be named), and a 1-2 disadvantage in the other two.

Of the other two divisions in the West (the Northwest and Pacific), each team in each division will be played twice. All ten games against one division will be played on the road, and all against the other at home. The West is so absurdly deep that there really isn’t a “winning” scenario here, but theoretically if you had pick which division you’d rather have entirely on the road, it would be the Northwest. (Although the Spurs have been pretty bad on the road the last two seasons, so maybe they’d prefer the “easier” division entirely at home so they can pile up the wins there?)

After the regular season, there will be another play-in tournament for each conference, similar to how the Bubble worked:

The teams with the seventh- and eighth-highest winning percentages will have two chances to make the playoffs, while the teams with the ninth- and 10th-highest winning percentages will have one chance.

The “Seven-Eight Game” will be between the teams ranked seventh and eighth, while the “Nine-Ten Game” will feature the teams ranked ninth and 10th. The winner of the Seven-Eight Game will advance to the playoffs. The loser will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game.

The Finals will run though July 22: one day before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics begin. That means players on the teams who go deeper into the playoffs are less likely to have a chance to participate, but the league technically succeeded in finishing the season before the Olympics to avoid clashing TV ratings. And regardless, it is not looking like the Spurs will be a finals team this season, so Gregg Popovich should finally be able to realize his dream of coaching Team USA at the Olympics.