Source: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has pondered the idea of shortening the NBA schedule for some time now, and while he has other ideas like a mid-season tournament and a playoff play in, shortening the 82 game schedule to just 58 games is actually making noise across the league.
Let's face it, the NBA season is too long, and load management is on the rise and teams trying to get the best out of their stars come playoff time. We saw that with the Raptors and Kawhi Leonard last year and it paid dividends. Gregg Popovich was also a big believer in load management, especially when it came to his big 3 of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli. As his players started to age, Popovich decided to start the trend of sitting his players and resting them.
A lot of people are wondering if this proposal is an overreaction to the injuries of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. ACL injuries are happening more than ever and obviously playing more definitely increases the risk of injury. Players aren't just playing a long, gruelling season, but they are also training harder in the offseason than ever before. Being an NBA player has become a year round job, and stories of players taking the whole offseason off before training camp are non-existent.
Effectively players are playing almost 100 games a year. The NBA season doesn't need to be this long. We all know the first couple of months are just warm-up games for the upper echelon of the NBA, the season doesn't truly get started until Christmas. That’s where the hype of the season really gets going.
During the shortened 2011-2012 season, the NBA had 66 games and it didn't start till Christmas day where they had some big matchups. The season felt fresher and games seemed to matter more with less games on the schedule. Players also looked rested and ready to play. Right now the ratings are down drastically in the NBA. Fans know that games in October and November aren’t important and instead are tuning in to the NFL and College sports. Less games equal higher stakes.
Load management just isn’t good for the game. For the fans it does feel like they're getting jibbed. Imagine paying the price of admission to watch your favourite player only to find out that said player is going to sit out. NBA tickets aren’t cheap, and that’s a lot of money going down the drown. If fans feel like they're getting ripped off they will stop spending money and sooner or later fans will start to hesitate to purchase tickets if this is the case.
What the NBA and the owners need to realize that they can't stop this from happening. No matter how strict they can be with load management teams will find a way to expose the system and find loopholes to gain an advantage over the competition. We’ve seen the Clippers and Doc Rivers get in hot water earlier this season with the handling of Kawhi Leonard and resting, but players have that right to sit out and it's only becoming a problem because star players are sitting out of primetime games.
If the league is serious about the wellbeing of their players, the issue of shortening the season should be taken seriously.
Adam Silver knows something has to be done and shortening the season looks like the right move, and with the commissioner open to new ideas, the NBA could be one step closer to making it happen.