The Cavaliers swept the Hawks in the 2015 Eastern Conference finals. The next night, the Warriors finished off the Rockets in a five-game Western Conference finals. With both series done so quickly, the NBA had a seven-day layoff until the NBA Finals were scheduled to start. NBA commissioner Adam Silver looked into moving up the NBA Finals. In previous years, the league built in a potential earlier NBA Finals start date for such scenarios. But – due to increased influence of television, both domestically and abroad – he found it infeasible. So, everyone waited more than a week without basketball.
The NBA is far more helpless to resume games now.
On March 11, the league suspended play (effective the following day) due to the coronavirus. That means we have gone eight straight days without an NBA game.
Already, that would be the longest in-season stoppage in NBA history, topping the seven days off before the 2015 NBA Finals. And this hiatus will extend far longer, smashing the record.
Of course, the season might already be finished. The goal is clearly to complete it, but we’re in the midst of a pandemic. Nothing can be taken for granted. If the season doesn’t continue, this wouldn’t count as an in-season stoppage.
Here’s every in-season stoppage that has lasted more than four days, including the potential current one:
Red: Current hiatus due to coronavirus
Orange: Layoff between conference finals and NBA Finals
Blue: All-Star break, which the league lengthened a few years ago
Green: The NBA opened its 1959-60 season with a special slate nationally televised on NBC – Boston Celtics vs. Cincinnati Royals on Saturday, Minneapolis Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons on Sunday. The league didn’t hold another game until the following Saturday – taking off the entire five-day work week.
Back then, the NBA put a larger share of its games on weekends. The Oct. 17 start date that season was the earliest the league had ever begun. That allowed another weekend for games to be played.
In fact, the early openers were so far outside the norm, the Knicks played a preseason game (against college stars) the same day the regular season tipped off, according to the indispensable Curtis Harris of ProHoopsHistory.
An Associated Press article previewing the season, provided by the NBA league office, even described the resumption of play on Oct. 24 as the beginning of “fullscale competition.” This looks like an attempt to market two games as high-profile, setting them off from the rest of the season.
It’s a reminder of a distant time, back when the NBA had firm control over its schedule. That was a different era.
A week-and-a-half ago.