NEW YORK — If there is one thing that lowers the level of play in NBA games, its players being tired from travel condensed games. There is statistical evidence that on the second night of back-to-backs teams play 1.5 points per 100 possessions worse. It gets even worse when teams play four games in five nights.
Players complain about the density of the schedule, and coaches deal with it by resting key guys in the middle of the season — we’re looking at you, Gregg Popovich. But he’s far from the only one.
Adam Silver wants to reduce those condensed schedule games — starting next year.
“The issue of back-to-back games, the issue of four games out of five nights: One of the things we’re hoping to address, even for next season, is to come as close as we came to eliminating the four games out of five nights,” Silver said in the commissioner’s annual All-Star address to the media. “It’s a math formula at the end of the day in terms of the number of days in the season and the number of games we play, but we think we can make a dramatic reduction there.”
Silver took care in his remarks to say that the league thinks it can dramatically reduce its four games in five nights almost immediately. Back-to-back games, however, will take time to really cut down.
“But I think we can make a dramatic impact there,” Silver said of the back-to-backs. “That may take more than one season. We’ll have a reduction based on some additional television windows.”
Right now, TNT broadcasts showcase games on Thursday night, and there are usually just those two games, maybe one other that night. ABC (Disney also wants some limited competition on League Pass on the nights it broadcasts. Silver said the league has reached out to them about loosening those restrictions, freeing up nights to have games. The league also has reached out to the arenas around the league trying to open up more nights and options, Silver said.
The other option is to add more dates to the schedule. Silver said he would talk to the teams and owners about reducing the numbers of preseason games — not training camp days and practices, but reduce some of the games — then start the season a week earlier (or so) compared to the usual start around Halloween.
“I have talked to a lot of our basketball people about preseason,” Silver said. “And my sense is that, while they feel a training camp, and a fairly long training camp, is still critically important, especially because we have a lot of young players in this league and there isn’t a lot of practice once the season starts, I don’t think they think the preseason games are as valuable as they once were.”
This change would be good for the league. Very good.
It’s not going to eliminate injuries — particularly not the freakish catastrophic ones — but it can reduce the games lost to “soreness” or other symptoms of the bumps and grinds of a season. You can see more of guys like Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade, who get more rest for their bodies in the schedule rather than by missing games. It’s good for the fans, good for the product.
It’s another smart move by Silver, if he can pull this off.