The NBA regular season is poised to start a week to 10 days earlier beginning next season as part of scheduling changes planned in the league's forthcoming new labor agreement with the National Basketball Players Association, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN that the 2017-18 campaign is earmarked to start in the Oct. 15 to Oct. 20 range -- up from Oct. 25 this season -- to create additional wiggle room that allows the league's schedule makers to further reduce the number of back-to-backs and four-games-in-five-nights sets on the current schedule.
To achieve this change will require a reduction in the preseason schedule. Sources say the current eight-game maximum of exhibition games per team will be reduced to five or six preseason games per team in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Officials on both sides of the negotiating table have been optimistic for weeks that a new deal will be agreed to in advance of the Dec. 15 deadline for either the league or the union to opt out of its current 10-year labor pact.
A new deal to avert a lockout in July 2017 and ensure several more years of labor peace has been expected since the summer, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a recent SiriusXM NBA Radio appearance that he has always regarded Dec. 15 as the "real" deadline for a new deal because of the opt-out provision.
NBA teams are scheduled to play an average of 16.3 back-to-backs this season, down from 17.8 in 2015-16. That figure, along with the number of four-games-in-five-nights scenarios, should drop again noticeably thanks to the proposed schedule changes, as part of the league's continuing efforts to prioritize player safety and lessen the physical strain of the regular season as much as possible.