The debate over how long the NBA season should be is a complicated one. It’s highly unlikely that it will be shortened from 82 anytime soon, because neither the players nor the owners want to give up the revenue from extra games. But as the league makes an effort to cut down on back-to-backs and four-games-in-five-nights stretches in the regular-season schedule, it’s a discussion that isn’t going away.
CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger asked a handful of players about it at Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas last week, and most of them supported keeping the schedule at 82 games. But Blake Griffin argued that 66 is the ideal length:
Sixty-six, spread over the same amount of time [as the current 82-game season]. Fatigue and injuries, and better product. If you have less games, less back-to-backs, the product’s better. The fans will appreciate it more. You see those college guys playing so hard, but they play 36 games in the same amount of time we play 82 almost. I just think it would be a better product.
Cutting 16 games from the schedule would eliminate most if not all of the back-to-backs that teams currently have to play, but it’s unlikely that it will ever happen, at least not in the next decade or so. In addition to the issue of giving back money, a dramatic cut in the length of the season will make it virtually impossible to compare eras. Season and career statistical records from throughout the NBA’s history will be harder for current players to reach if they have a shorter season.
One solution to the problem of too many back-to-backs that’s been suggested in the past few years that makes a lot of sense is shortening the preseason. Teams currently play between six and eight exhibition games over four weeks, games that don’t count in the standings and only serve to give players more chances to get injured. Cutting the preseason from eight games to four and spreading out the regular season over the last two weeks in October would allow teams to have fewer back-to-backs scheduled while preserving the 82-game structure of the NBA season.
Again, this is all purely hypothetical, but it’s a discussion that’s going to persist as long as there are injuries and back-to-backs.