LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Erick Spoelstra have called for the NBA to consider reducing the number of games in a season.
But removing games from the schedule would reduce revenue, hurting both players and owners in the wallet. So, the league is researching a solution that would keep the regular season at 82 games.
The NBA over the last two weeks has informally surveyed team higher-ups about the idea of cutting the preseason schedule by as much as half, according to several sources around the league.
The goal is to start the regular season earlier and stretch the full 82-game schedule over about 10 additional days, sources say.
Any change in the number of preseason games would likely not take place until the 2016-17 season at the earliest, sources say.
If the league wants to cut games, doing so in the preseason was always the No. 1 option. Preseason games don’t generate nearly as much money as regular-season contests, so there’s less downside to dropping them. (Though, preseason games played in non-NBA cities provides exposure and indirectly increases revenue.)
Right now, teams usually play eight (sometimes seven) preseason games. The Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for up to eight preseason games, so the NBA could probably reduce the number without the players’ approval.
Collectively, I’m not sure the players would mind. Most teams sit key players for multiple preseason games, because eight is too many as is. This proposal, along with a longer All-Star break, would help the NBA spread 82 games over a longer window, meaning fewer back-to-backs and other tightly packed spurts. That would reduce wear and tear on players, maybe even extending their careers.
However, players on unguaranteed contracts on the edge of making a roster would probably want the extra time to prove themselves. Likewise, coaches and general managers won’t want to miss those evaluation opportunities. Lowe:
That’s why the league has also floated the idea of allowing an NFL-style “organized team activity” during the offseason, sources say.
This is where the NBA’s plan gets dicey, and this part of it would almost certainly require the union’s approval. If the idea is to limit the burden on players, swapping games for practices won’t necessarily achieve that.
And if you’re going to make players work anyway, why not do it as part of an exhibition game and draw revenue in the process?
If the NBA is truly serious about reducing the load it puts on players, moving their work behind the scenes won’t get it done. Reducing the number of preseason games could, though.