Last year the National Basketball Association (NBA) didn’t start until Christmas day. A 66-game season, courtesy of an intense summer-long NBA lockout, sidelined basketball until nearly the New Year. The result however, was a highly entertaining, less drawn out version of the NBA as we used to know it.
Some fans even argued that’s the way the league should handle business going forward: less games and more action. The cut off calendar gave regular season games more importance while limiting the strain on stars of the hardwood.
By the time the postseason rolled around, superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant were fresh, and the rest of playoff performers were rested and ready for action. But should the NBA take a page out of a crazy campaign and make a 66-game schedule permanent? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley debate.
Green: The NBA may have enjoyed its finest season last year. Fans weren’t over-saturated with meaningless games and like the introduction stated, it gave us a chance to watch a crop of rested athletes perform at a high level. The current 82-game slate gives us gassed players by the time February rolls along. College and professional football’s shortened seasons make each game critical but you don’t get that with the NBA. How many times have fans stated that they rather not watch basketball until the playoffs start or accused players of lumbering until late April?
Riley: In every sport you’re going to have players who sleep walk through regular season games no matter how many contests are scheduled. And while an 82-game NBA schedule may be a bit much, let’s not act like the number of contests takes away from the playoffs because it doesn’t. The NBA is full of world class athletes so there’s really no need to let up on them and save them an extra 16 games.
Green: Just because they’re world class athletes doesn’t mean the league should run them into the ground. And does anybody even watch basketball in November and December? No sport is competitive with the NFL during the fall and winter months so why bother competing for air time when both the NCAA and NBA are in full swing?
Riley: The NBA doesn’t even compete with football in the opening months. Games aren’t aired nationally during the weekend and the aspect of weekday games Tuesday through Friday is something neither the NCAA nor NFL can compete with. We’re not talking about basketball competing with football, just keeping fans entertained throughout the week before it heats up after the All Star break in February.
Green: Between Monday and Thursday night football with the NFL and Thursday, Friday and Saturday night football with the NCAA plus college basketball, do we really need weekday NBA games to keep people entertained? Half-empty arenas and rusty basketball just doesn’t seem exciting to me and seems like more of a hindrance than a help.
Riley: If the NBA was to move to a shortened season then you’re talking about increased ticket prices to make up for the difference and owners and players bickering over money again like we saw last summer. You’re asking to open a financial can of worms by trying to move the schedule to 66 games. Think about the referees, cheerleaders, dance teams and players alike. If your job told you it was moving from a five-day work week to a three-day work week and you were only getting paid for the days you work how would you feel? It’s not just about making games exciting for a TV audience, it’s bigger than that. The NBA is giving out to a lot of empty hands right now and each team’s chopping off eight home games would be a financial disaster for all those involved.