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

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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