The NBA schedule, which has recently caused coaches to rest star players in high profile games, has been a source of debate and controversy in recent days.
Ticket 760's Andy Everett analyzes the problem and proposes a solution.
Commissioner Adam Silver, are you listening?
Here is Andy's take...
"The issue with players taking nights off for rest in the NBA has come to a head. Obviously television sponsors are up in arms about this, so are fans, and I suspect the boys in the desert have raised their hands to complain because the challenge of handicapping games has become tougher not knowing who is playing or resting.
I firmly believe that the NBA coaches that exercise the “rest” option often have been trying to send a message to the league that the schedule is ridiculous. There has to be a better option. Steve Kerr could have sat his players on that Friday night in Minnesota and then played the regulars in San Antonio on Saturday. But that doesn’t send the impactful message to the league to change its schedule, because no one outside of Minnesota would have cared that the Warriors best four players were on the bench on Friday. Coaches stay employed or get fired, by how far their teams go in the playoffs. And they will continue this strategy if scheduling doesn’t improve to enhance their chances for post season success.
Here’s my solution to fix this for next year and beyond: There are 27 weeks from October 9, 2017 to April 15, 2018. That should mark the regular season -- starting 2 1/2 weeks earlier. The playoffs would begin Wednesday, April 18, 2018. The last possible Game 7 of the Finals would be as late as June 25. One week later than normal. And who cares if it went into July in some years. We play baseball now in November. And it would be less time to wait before football starts.
For 23 of those 27 weeks, teams will play no more than 3 games. Teams will play either M-W-Sat or Tue-Thu-Sun in those weeks, That gets you to 69 games. For 3 of those 27 weeks, (first week of the season, Christmas week, and one other random week) teams will play no more than 4 games. (12 games) (M-W-F-Sun) or T-Th-Sat-Mon.) The week of the All-Star Break, teams play (1 game) That gets you to 82.
One of the issues when putting together complex scheduling is “arena availability.” The NBA doesn't get just any date it wants if a concert or something else is pre-booked. An empty arena doesn’t make its tenants any money. They want it filled with concerts, rodeos, the circus, other sporting events, and many NBA arenas are shared by NHL or AHL teams. In some cities, NHL teams actually get to pick their dates before the NBA. Teams send the NBA a list of available dates several months before the August release. Let’s reverse that. Let the NBA (and NHL) make its schedule and release it by Christmas of the preceding year. Teams know when annual events like the circus or the rodeo are going to take place to block off, and after the NBA schedule is done, the NHL could follow simultaneously, and that would give arena operators ample time to accommodate minor league schedules and concerts.
Because of the “arena availability” issue it may be necessary to occasionally deviate from the aforementioned “days off” between games" scheduling and occasionally schedule a back-to-back. Here are my new parameters for scheduling back-to-backs. No team will have more than four in any season. No team will have more than one per month. Any back-to-back either (a) has to be at home (2 games in consecutive days at home) or (b) has to be in the same or very close city. Clippers/Lakers, Nets/Knicks, 76ers/Wizards, Bulls/Pacers, Timberwolves/Bucks, Spurs/Mavs, Rockets/Pelicans, Cavs/Pistons, Magic/Heat, Hawks/Hornets, Celtics/Raptors, Kings/Warriors, Nuggets/Jazz, Suns/Blazers, Thunder/Grizzlies.
There will never be 3 games in 4 days or 4 in 5. And under no circumstance whatsoever, should a team scheduled to play in prime time on Saturday night on ABC play any later than Wednesday or Thursday in said week. If you are the home team on Saturday night you can play on the road on Wednesday or at home on Thursday, but not both. . If you are the road team on Saturday night, you can’t play past Wednesday. You get two days off in the city you are about to play in.That puts the marquis teams/players in a great regular season matchup with plenty of rest. Same for Thursday TNT games. No home team plays on Wednesday. No road team plays on Tuesday.
There is an argument as well that former players handled this scheduling OK. And pre 1990 they all flew commercial, and were force to take 6 a.m. flights to the next city to accommodate the league’s schedule. Things have evolved to where players rest, nutrition, workout regiments, and overall conditions of their bodies have changed dramatically. Players and their fans want player’s careers to last as long as possible. Players play much longer because they care of themselves better. In the “old days” players played or someone else took their spot. This is no longer how things are done.
Remember 2000. Pop benched Tim Duncan in the playoffs because he had a bad knee, citing he was not going to jeopardize his long term health for any one playoff run. In Detroit that year, Grant Hill played on a bad ankle for most of the playoffs. And when he left the Motor City for Orlando, he was never the same player. How much longer could yesteryear’s stars have played if they hadn’t played so many nights in terrible physical condition and pain? Larry Bird got traction treatment in the afternoon and played that night. There is no way he would play under those circumstances in today’s NBA regardless of how tough he was.
You can’t mandate when coaches rest their players. If the league forced players to play, coaches would just limit their minutes or the players would intentionally foul, or get T'd up to get out of the game. There are players that will always be ready to go, and have to be held back by their coach. Andre Iguodala’s frustration boiled over because he wanted to play, and his coach knew the gas tank was near empty. Plus the league needed a wake-up call in regards to their insane schedule. These ideas I’ve outlined won’t completely fix the “DNP-Rest” line in the box score, but it would happen far less frequently if the league would just spread out the schedule."
Andy Everett has served as a broadcaster for Spurs Sports and Entertainment and is the voice of UTSA Athletics and host of the Ticket 760 Golf Show. He is on Twitter at @AndyEverett760
(NBA photo by Getty Images)