More and more, coaches are resting their best players during the regular season — because the analytics tell them to. Guys bodies wear down from the grind — 82 regular season games plus playoffs, cross-country travel, games packed tightly together. It has become a growing story around the NBA in recent years — fans are paying big money for tickets to watch Blake Griffin or LeBron James, only to seem them in street clothes because the team is playing four games in five nights.
Back All-Star Game weekend, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would look into this and find a way to space games out more starting the next season.
They certainly did.
Last season there were 70 times teams had four games in five nights (almost always on the road), this season there are just 27. Eight teams have none of them, including the Spurs.
This season teams have an average of 17.8 back-to-back games, down from 19.3 last season. The number of “long distance” back-to-backs (across a time zone) went from 111 last season down to 84 this time. The system is not perfect — Golden State, Detroit, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers — still each have 20 back-to-backs, but it’s an improvement.
That’s some steps in the right direction.
It’s not going to instantly end the rash of injuries to star players that we saw last season, but it’s a start to reduce the wear-and-tear on NBA players’ bodies which accumulates into injuries.
Next year the NBA schedule could start even a week earlier, and that space would be used further reduce those congested games.
Ideally that will mean fewer games where stars are rested, but we will have to see how that plays out.
In the end, this is about good business and the product on the court. As scientific evidence mounts that fatigue both impacts the quality of the game and increases the chance of injury, reducing that fatigue is going to happen one way or another. If the league can’t do it through better scheduling — and we all know the owners and players are not going to agree to reduce the number of games — then the coaches will take matters into their own hands. As Gregg Popovich has done for years.
Adam Silver has been wisely proactive with this schedule. But it is just a first couple steps.