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Could the NBA’s level of play be better with fewer games?

Oct 12, 2011, 11:43 AM EDT

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There is not going to be a full NBA season with each team playing 82 games this year.

That’s a bad thing in the “these idiots are missing games because they can’t decide how rich each side will be” kind of way.

But could it be good for the quality of basketball in the league?

The New York Times looked into this and the answer was… maybe. Depends on how many games on what kind of schedule.

“Seventy would be great,” said Jeff Van Gundy, the ESPN/ABC analyst who coached the Knicks during the 1998-99 season, which was shrunk to 50 games by a lockout. “But only if you stretched them out over the same amount of time as the 82-game season. That would eliminate almost every back-to-back situation.”

Coaches and players hate the back-to-backs, which almost always happen on the road so there is a night of travel in between. Road trips often have a four-games-in-five-nights stretch and by the end of that you can expect teams to be playing pretty sloppy ball. They would love to get rid of that condensed part of the schedule. They argue more spread out games leads to better basketball.

But after the lockout, a more condensed schedule is likely — the 1999 50-game schedule was crammed into 13 weeks and included some back-to-back-to-backs. The quality of play that season was not good as a lot of players were not in shape.

David Thorpe, director of the Pro Training Center in Florida (and friend of PBT), who has worked with a number of pro players on conditioning and technique, told the Times that if the players have to play more a condensed schedule could bring their skills and level of play up faster.

“If you jump more, you jump better,” Thorpe said. “If you shoot more, you shoot better. One reason why we see a really high level of play in May and June, when you’d think the superstars would be the most tired, is that they’re in amazing shape and challenge themselves all the time.”

It’s all kind of a moot discussion — there will not be a shortened schedule in future years. It’s about the money — both the owners and players want the television money and gate receipts from an 82 game schedule plus playoffs. You can make an argument for 70 games being better for players, but it’s not for their pocket books. And that’s really what the lockout is about

  1. sguy2130 - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    I’m all for less games in the NBA, same for MLB. The games mean a lot more with less games (see the NFL). Of course it will never happen because there would be too much money at stake.

    For now I’d just settle for a fair playing field for small market teams though, one thing at a time.

  2. therealhtj - Oct 12, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Being able to get out of bad contracts almost immediately will improve the level of play a lot too, but apparently that’s a “blood issue.”

  3. zblott - Oct 12, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    And it also rewards stupid teams for making stupid decisions. It’s just like a business: if owners are serious about making money and having a good team, they’d hire competent GM’s. Somehow small-market OKC has a small payroll that’s only getting smaller while winning games – that’s what good front office minds will get you. If you hire Isiah Lord Thomas, you deserve whatever team destruction happens, not an out. If Stern had the cahones to pressure bad owners out of the league if they can’t turn their teams around (it’s not hard, force ticket prices to be lowered if teams continually can’t right the ship – bad owners will leave that situation quickly), you wouldn’t have the problems we’re seeing from clubs today.

    • zblott - Oct 12, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      sorry, meant for that to be a reply to therealhtj

      • therealhtj - Oct 12, 2011 at 5:30 PM

        OKC made good draft choices – if you want to chalk up the fact that Portland stupidly went with Oden over Durant, But Westbrook, Ibaka, and Harden where solid choices, I’ll give them that.

        Now with max money going to Durant, near max-money it’ll take to keep Westbrook, 7 mil for Perkins, and better than-MLE deals heading toward Ibaka and Harden, they’ll end up having to give up at least one of those guys. So how exactly is their payroll getting smaller?

        I get that Isaiah was crap as a GM, but what about Houston? Should they spend 3 years in NBA purgatory because Yao Ming had glass legs? Orlando was hamstrung for 7 years because of Grant Hill. Give the teams the opportunity to cut non-productive bums, and WE, THE FANS, will only benefit. Sure it’ll forgive some lousy GM moves, but as a fan, I could care less. And if it were your team sitting on some lousy albatross of a contract, you wouldn’t either.

        In any case, seems to work out just fine in the NFL.

      • zblott - Oct 13, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        @thereal
        Last year OKC dished out $58m, this year it should be $54m after dropping Collison’s contract, 2012-13 it’s $44m and they only lose Nazr from the rotation, 2013-14 it’s $31m and they only lose Westbrook (who I’d say is replaceable after watching the playoffs last year). These are basic facts anyone can look up, so I’m not sure why you’re questioning me on this.

        And there’s a big difference between a team getting burned by injuries and by terrible decisions. A guy gets injured and can’t play? Of course there should be something in place for that, but not for doing things like last year’s Joe Johnson or Travis Outlaw signings. In fact, there should be no outs for signing guys like Boozer and Amar’e who had lengthy track records of injuries. Too many dumb decisions that burn franchises – don’t focus on a couple big injuries from the last 15 years. I actually think teams should have amnesty and be allowed to drop a dead contract for a lazy stiff (still have to pay it, but dropped from salary cap) as long as the GM and team president are also forced to leave and not work for one year – I bet we’ll see some smarter decisions if people think they’ll actually have to live with them.

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