NBA expecting players to agree to Dec. 22 start date

So much for a Martin Luther King Day opener.

According to NBA sources and Jared Dudley, the players are expected to vote Thursday and Friday for a Dec. 22 season opener to take advantage of the Christmas Day TV bonanza.

Last week, union director Michelle Roberts said reaction to the owners’ Dec. 22 plan for a 72-game season with limited cross-country travel was “overwhelmingly negative.”

Not anymore. According to league sources, commissioner Adam Silver is expecting the players to vote for December.

“The players will vote on it, but to be honest with you there’s no real vote,” Dudley said Wednesday on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “Nobody is playing 55 games. We’ve got to play 72. It’s a money thing so we’ll most likely start on the 22nd.”

The Post first reported in September the possibility of an MLK Day opener on Jan. 18 and Yahoo subsequently reported last week players liked the idea and were pushing in that direction.

However, the schedule for a Jan. 18 opener would have reduced the schedule to about 58 games, costing the league a reduction in revenue and, hence, salaries. Friday is when either party can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement — a date that was pushed back from last Friday’s original deadline because of the stalemate.

However, The Post reported last week the union would seek to give the players a bigger picture of its financials. The league is bent on getting the 2021-22 season back on an October-to-June schedule after disastrous ratings for the Orlando restart in late summer.

A Dec. 22 opener would mean training camps would start about Dec. 1 and be a hectic situation with free agency dawning a few days after the Nov. 18 draft. Last week it was reported that three preseason games would be staged under that scenario but without fans because of the recent spike of Covid-19.

The Lakers’ Danny Green said he thought teammate LeBron James may even sit out the first month of the season to rest after winning the title in mid-October.

But the league will reduce long plane trips by possibly having West Coast teams play a two-game series against an Eastern opponent.

For instance, if the Lakers and Clippers flew to the New York area, they could play two games vs. the Nets, two games vs. the Knicks and possibly two games in Newark against the transplanted Raptors. (Toronto may play home games in Newark’s Prudential Center because of travel restrictions under Canada’s Covid-19 quarantine rules). In that scenario, the Knicks, Nets and Raptors would not have to travel to LA.

The proposal reportedly will include a play-in round between the 8th and 9th seeds and an NBA Finals held in early-to-mid-July.

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