Time flies when the offseason is only a few months long.
According to NBA insider Shams Charania, the NBA is targeting a 72-game regular season with a December 22 return date, the combination of which would allow the league to finish before the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. This report comes a couple of weeks after we heard commissioner Adam Silver say that it was unlikely the league would stop for the Tokyo Olympics (via NBA TV).
So, with this new plan, the league technically wouldn't have to stop for the Tokyo Olympics. Instead, the season would be finished beforehand.
A December 22 start would be earlier than what Silver had hinted at previously, as well, as he told CNN's Bob Costas that his best guess would be a season that began in January, with the earliest start date being Christmas. But there were also reports of a December 1 start date, so clearly, everything is very fluid — rightly so — at this point in time.
A typical NBA season starts in late October, as the 2019 campaign began on October 22, the 2018 campaign on October 16, and so on. As estimates from the nation's foremost experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, expect coronavirus to continue taking away our sense of normalcy well into 2021, we shouldn't be surprised if this prospective December start date moves once again. The 72-game schedule is ten games fewer than the typical NBA season, as well, and is another figure that is almost certainly susceptible to be changed.
As for whether or not a bubble will be deployed again, Charania says that the NBA prefers in-market play over another year of the bubble(s) for 2020-21 at this point in time, with reduced travel and repeated matchups making this possible.