The NBA’s experiment with a 44-minute game in today’s Celtics-Nets preseason game has led to much discussion about the best way to speed up games and keep players fresh. Many high-profile players agree that the bigger problem is back-to-backs, which lead to injuries and player fatigue. But shortening the season would mean players giving up game checks and teams giving up gate revenue, so it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker has the most sensible and realistic suggestion thus far: shortening the preseason. From Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:
“The starters are still going to play a lot of minutes,” Parker said. “Nothing will change. I think what (should be changed) is to play four preseason games instead of eight, and those two weeks you can help spread the season. That would be better. Because every arrives in shape at training camp. Everybody’s in shape. Everybody’s here since the beginning of September, even the guys playing overseas, we arrive in shape.
“So it’s better to play four preseason games, and then that two weeks use it to spread the season. You can still keep the week for the All-Stars so we can have some vacation too. I think that would be the solution. But 44 (minutes), no, that’s not going to change anything. Except for the coaches; there would be fewer minutes for the guys off the bench.”
This is an entirely reasonable idea with virtually no downside. Nobody really likes preseason — it’s a waste of the players’ time, the games don’t count, and coaches often don’t even play their star players (or at least play them shorter minutes).
There’s no reason there have to be eight preseason games that nobody will remember. Four is plenty, and spreading the regular season out over two extra weeks will cut down on the number of back-to-backs players have to play while keeping the season at 82 games. Four games of preseason gate revenue would be lost, but again, those are games that nobody takes seriously anyway. It’s a small price to pay for a better overall product.