It’s already next season in the NBA, where the offseason is almost nonexistent

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In the NBA, it’s already next season.

The offseason, technically, might have lasted for only about an hour. The Boston Celtics won the NBA Finals on Monday night, and when the clock rolled over to Tuesday morning, teams — in many cases — could start talking to their own free agents.

The on-court games are over, for now. Let the off-court games begin.

“This is a business,” Miami Heat President Pat Riley said when his team’s season ended last month, “as much as it is anything else.”

The champion Celtics and Jayson Tatum can agree on an extension that will be worth a record $315 million, though that record is probably going to get smashed annually over the next few years. There’s an Olympics that will have tons of NBA representation. The Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers still need to hire head coaches. LeBron James, who plays (for now at least) for the Lakers and used to play for the Cavs, can be a free agent. Bronny James — his oldest son — may be about to enter the league as a rookie, there’s a draft that starts on June 26, and the Atlanta Hawks hold the No. 1 selection in what will be one of countless dominoes to fall this summer.

“I really enjoy our process that we’ve built out and the people that we’ve done it with,” Hawks general manager Landry Fields said. “At the end of the day, you all will be the judge of whether that was the right pick or not. For me, it’s more looking at where are we at, what was our process, how are we assessing this current player and just rolling with it.”

The new rule, part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, saying that teams can talk to their own free agents before the June 30 start of free agency means that some deals can be agreed to — but not announced — even earlier than usual. Deals cannot be signed until July 6, in most cases. The penalties for rule-breakers on those fronts will be severe: fines of up to $2 million, forfeiting of draft picks and suspension of team personnel involved in violations are among the NBA’s options.

Some players will get a few million this summer. Some will get many millions. The creativity of teams and their salary-cap gurus will be tested this summer, as always.

“You have to put a pencil to the bottom line,” Riley said. “And then also you have to pencil in what the cost is going to be in the collateral damage of going over the first apron, the second apron and then the repeater tax.”

Meanwhile, the NBA is going to secure billions before long. Billions and billions. The biggest deal — series of deals, really — in league history is likely about to close, that being the new media rights packages that the league has been negotiating for some time.

The current deals with ABC-ESPN and Turner Sports expire after next season and the NBA has been talking with NBC, ESPN and Amazon, among other networks and platforms, about what comes next. The numbers are staggering: 11 years and more than $70 billion is the expectation, both dwarfing the current nine-year, $24 billion deal.

“The global nature definitely factors into the discussions,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “As all of the media companies, even the traditional ones, move towards streaming and have whether primary or adjacent streaming platforms, those platforms are increasingly global. And their ability to reach our fans around the world is a critical component of these discussions.”

It’s a mix of everything right now, some contracts that will extend for a decade, some that won’t last past the end of Summer League in Las Vegas next month. There are big questions — will Golden State keep its core together, will San Antonio take a big swing to place more talent around rookie of the year Victor Wembanyama, where will James go, will Miami give Jimmy Butler the extension he seeks, will Donovan Mitchell stay in Cleveland, and on and on and on.

The only real certainties are these: There are 29 teams chasing the Celtics, and everyone is looking to get better. It starts with the draft, then free agency, and plenty of people around the NBA think this will be a summer filled with trades as well.

“Good players are really hard to find, like super hard to find,” Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said. “Guys that can play consistently in the NBA and be in the NBA for more than three years … that’s actually harder than it sounds.”

Welcome to next season, already in progress.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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