Adam Silver: Players don’t get worn down, more injured over season

Jimmy Butler and Robert Williams in Miami Heat Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden
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The NBA would reportedly shorten its regular season from 82 to 78 games with an in-season tournament.

Though enthusiasm for the play-in tournament itself remains shallow, many people would welcome a shorter regular season. They see the 82-game schedule as too long, too grueling, too likely to lead to injury without enough games carrying significance.

Of course, four fewer games would mean four fewer opportunities for players to get hurt.

But players getting less worn down over a shorter season and, therefore, experiencing fewer injuries? NBA commissioner Adam Silver says it doesn’t work that way.

Silver:

What we don’t see is increased numbers of injuries as the season goes on. It’s not as if because of fatigue over the course of a season, you see more injuries. We do see a connection between actual fatigue, for example, from back-to-backs or three in a row. We think that potentially can lead to more injuries.

I have a hard time believing the first part of this quote is true. How could the wear and tear of a longer season not leave players more susceptible to injury?

Measuring this is complicated, because teams take steps to mitigate the effects of season-long load. These aren’t controlled experiments. But research has correlated fatigue and injury, and all logic dictates that’d apply with the increasing exhaust felt over a long season.

If the NBA believes otherwise, that could be revealing about future scheduling strategies. The league has already significantly reduced the number of back-to-backs and three-games-in-four-nights in recent years. That – not shortening the season – is clearly Silver’s priority.

There’s an obvious financial incentive to play as many games as possible. Each game brings in revenue directly through ticket sales and indirectly through TV contracts, which are more valuable when TV networks have more opportunities to sell ads. (A shorter schedule would increase the value of each game, but by making it more costly to fans, marginal fans would get priced out. That would hinder the long-term growth of the league.)

If the only issue is the frequency – not the amount – of games, why not lengthen the season? That’d allow the league to maximize revenue (i.e., games played) while spreading the games over a longer period, reducing the type of fatigue that concerns Silver.