The NBA is increasingly open to delaying next season, which would accomplish two primary objectives:
- Allow more time to complete the current season, which is suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic
- Increase the likelihood of fans attending games next season
I think there is, more than ever, a movement to play 82 games next year. Because what a shortened schedule does to you is it means less revenue. They’re going to play every game they can.
NBA owners and players share incentive to maximize revenue. They should want to play a full schedule if possible.
The big problem: Nobody knows when it will be safe to begin next season.
If the NBA finishes this season, that obviously pushes back the timeline. But even if the NBA cancels the rest of this season, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be safe to resume play in October. Or December. Or any specific time. There are too many unknowns with the coronavirus.
It’s very possible next season’s start date won’t coincide with the NBA’s ideal long-term start date. If that happens and the league insists on playing 82 games, there are a few options to get back on track:
- Compressing the schedule into a tighter period
- Shortening the playoffs
- Reducing the offseason
Shortening the postseason – 15 best-of-seven series – should be a non-starter. That’s the NBA’s most lucrative time. It’d be FAR better to shorten the regular season.
Shaving days from the 177-day regular season could be viable. Until recently, it was 170 days. But that would also likely lead to more injuries or players taking off games for rest.
Trimming the four-month offseason could be the best bet. That could even be implemented over multiple years to get back on track gradually rather than having a single extremely short offseason.
It all depends when it’s safe to begin next season.
Depending on the timing, I even wouldn’t rule out shortening the regular season. Imagine if it’s first safe to begin next regular season in the spring. It would take several years to get back into alignment while playing 82-game seasons.
But I get why nobody wants to think that way yet. The first goal is safely maximizing revenue, and that means hoping an 82-game season is viable next season. If it’s not, that’ll mean there’s a long time to think about contingencies.