New NBA schedule will have more rest built in, especially before televised games

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At some point in the next 72 hours, the NBA will drop the 2017-18 schedule. Little bits are already starting to leak out, for example, the Thunder and Nets will play in Mexico City on Dec. 7.

While the immediate focus of looking at the schedule will be to find the big games — who is playing on Christmas Day, for example — there is a new overarching theme:

Rest.

As in, the league office expects fewer DPN-rest days.

The league is starting 10 days earlier and has put in a conscious effort to build more rest into the schedule, the league office told teams in a memo. Brian Windhorst of ESPN saw the memo and covered some of the highlights.

In a memo given to teams this week, the league outlined how it hopes to reduce the stresses of travel and give players a chance to recover more than in the past. This is a proactive measure aimed at both player safety and to reduce the number of games in which teams rest healthy players.

After a series of high-profile players didn’t play in major matchups last season, the new schedule protects key national television matchups to make sure teams aren’t playing on back-to-back nights…

• Reduction of five games in seven nights to just 40 instances across (1.3 per team), down from last year when it was on the schedule 90 times (three per team).

• Reduction in number of back-to-backs to 14.9 per team, down from 16.3 per team. In all, 40 back-to-backs have been eliminated from last season.

Make no mistake, Gregg Popovich is still going to rest his guys. LeBron James is going to get nights off during the season. Steve Kerr is still going to listen to his team’s medical staff and get Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant rest if they show signs of fatigue.

However, expect a genuine effort by teams not to rest their biggest stars on the league’s biggest television nights. The NBA has worked to make sure that if the Celtics are playing on a Thursday night TNT game it’s not at the end of a long road trip where Brad Stevens would be more likely to give Isaiah Thomas or Gordon Hayward the night off. The NBA has been embarrassed by the number of DNP-rest games for stars for big, nationally televised contests, as has happened the past couple of seasons.

We’ll see how this impacts the trend of DNP-rest games, which have increased in recent years. But my guess is it will feel like the trend is decreasing, even if numerically it is not, because we’ll see it less often in the biggest games.