It’s the latest term of art for rest. The NBA is trying to strike a delicate balance, knowing that players need more rest to play at their peak and reduce injuries, but at the same time, the league wants its stars on the court for more games, not sitting out for load management. In the past few years, at the urging of Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA schedule has been stretched out by a couple of weeks so that there are fewer back-to-backs, easier travel schedules, and more rest for players built into the system.
Still, plenty of players are sitting out. “Load management.”
The ultimate solution to this would be shorter seasons, which many people agree is a good idea — except for the part where the league makes less money so players, owners, everyone has to take a pay cut. Maybe the better solution is shorter games. Or, maybe play fewer regular-season games but have some European soccer-style tournaments mid-season to make up the revenue. Silver said Friday after the Board of Governor’s meeting that the league is considering all of that.
“I’m a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand [the 82-game schedule is] 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there’s nothing magical about it,” Silver said.
“I think it’s on the league office to always be challenging the way we do things, to be paying attention to changing viewer habits, a changing marketplace, a new world of the way media is presented, often on smaller devices, less on screens, people having shorter attention spans, and saying, `This is an incredible game, it’s never been more exciting, the athleticism has never been greater, fantastic players coming from all around the world, but what’s the best way to put the season together?”‘
The challenge is all about money. Players and owners both like the concept of reducing games, cutting the season down to 70 (or 66, or 60) games. The challenge is that it also means fewer games for which to sell tickets or for broadcasters to show, likely leading to a drop in revenue — and nobody wants to give up their money. Which is why Silver has flirted with European-style mid-season tournaments.
“That’s why I’m particularly interested in looking at different kinds of formats – at midseason tournaments, for example, play-in tournaments – because even accepting that players have so many miles on their bodies, there may be better ways to present it,” Silver said. “Assuming guys are going to play 82 games, maybe there should be a certain number of games in the regular season and then there should be two tournaments throughout the season.”
Silver is willing to listen, ready to challenge the status quo more than most commissioners. He’s not one for playing it safe or doing things one way just because that’s always how it’s been done. That’s a good thing.
The league does need to put player health first, but as always money talks. Finding financial solutions will be the hard part.