Katelyn E. Clooney
Hey, everyone, stop complaining. We are now two days into April and most NBA teams have a general idea of how their respective seasons will end. Both number-one seeds have been clinched and, conversely, several teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention. So, whether you like it or not, “resting” will be even more common in the league during the next couple of weeks.
Such a practice was unheard of in the days of Chamberlain and Russell, the era of Moses Malone, or even the era of Karl Malone. Just two seasons ago, on Nov. 29, 2012, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich caused a stir when he sent several starters home, just hours before a nationally television matchup against Miami. The move resulted in a $250,000 fine. Fast-forward to this season: On March 12, Dave Joerger sat four of the Grizzlies’ star players during a TNT-televised game. This past Saturday, one night after clinching the number one seed in the East, all five Atlanta Hawks starters rested against New Orleans. Steve Kerr, whose Warriors have cemented the top record in the West, has also sat several key players this season. What was unheard of decades ago and was a rarity in recent years, has become commonplace in today’s league.
But, should it be? Personally, I am not totally against the concept.
What the NBA now lacks in size, it more than makes up for in speed. This current batch of guards consists of some of the most explosive athletes that the league has ever seen. For many teams, their point guard is now a de facto two-guard. Thus, they are more prone to injury. I hear all the tough-talking heads, yelling the likes of “Back in the day, players were tougher. They had less amenities and they still didn’t need rest,” and “Players nowadays are spoiled, they don’t care about the game.”
Let’s be honest, we all need days off. Yes, these players are compensated very well, but, in terms of revenue and owner’s income, their salaries are more than justified. Also, most of us don’t travel cross-country several times a week. The NBA schedule is exhausting and just because resting was seldom done in previous decades, does not necessarily mean that that was for the better. Most importantly, neither I nor any of the other talking heads have the right to make such a decision. I have yet to submit my resume and apply for an NBA head coaching position, so such is simply not my call. No one likes being told how to do their job, so let’s not tell Pop or Joerger or Kerr how to do theirs. As fans, we do enough Monday morning quarterbacking already. Their ultimate job is not to win games, but to win championships. If you felt resting a player would help you reach that goal, wouldn’t you do so, as well?
That being said, this is clearly an uphill trend. Occasional rest is one thing, but it goes without saying that resting multiple players on multiple occasions, or having healthy individuals sit several games, will damage the league. So, what can be done to prevent that?
In order to eliminate back-to-back games, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has proposed extending the season, so that the Finals start in July. However, pretty much everyone else in the league–owners, coaches and players, are likely to be against this extension. A few have already shunned the idea in its infancy. A more attractive option would be to decrease the amount of regular season games; I am highly in favor of a 76-game schedule. That being said, teams have played 82-game seasons since the 1960’s and, for many teams, each game brings in an excess of $1 million in revenue.
First, more subtle steps must be taken, such as decreasing the number of preseason games. Instead of a seven or eight game schedule, let’s make it five, while maintaining a late September training camp commencement. Nobody is going to cry over a little less October basketball and the move can be nothing other than beneficial, in the long run. In 2003, the NBA first round playoffs were expanded from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven series. Let’s reverse that. Surely, winning 15 postseason games makes a team just as worthy of being crowned champion, as winning 16 does. This will also reduce the excessive rest that follows a sweep, as opposed to a seven-game opening round, which can be well over a week, even two.
One thing that I am highly against, which has been increasingly talked about, is expanding into Europe. Overseas games have increased in recent years and Silver has discussed starting multiple London franchises. A direct flight from Dallas (a relatively central U.S. location) to London, England is almost 9 hours. There is a six-hour time difference between the two cities. While I believe that most players genuinely like international preseason games, the idea of flying around the world during a March playoff-run is just brutal. Not to mention, this would provide an obvious disadvantage to teams that are based in London and are having their passports stamped weekly.
Of course, just as I am not an NBA coach, I am also not the commissioner. Unfortunately, I have no say on the subject. However, I am far from the first to propose tinkering with the schedule and, frankly, tinkering is imminent. Don’t expect any major changes before the players’ all-but-certain 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement opt-out, but do expect the topic to be even more actively discussed as the negotiations approach.