* * *
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was quoted recently saying “there’s nothing magical about 82 games.” So what is the right number of games for the NBA regular season, and what would that schedule look like?
* * *
David Aldridge: A 70-game schedule would, IMHO, be perfect for just about everyone concerned. Over the course of six months, that’s just two fewer games per team per month. Fans would barely notice. But players would. While that doesn’t sound like a major reduction, I think there would be an improvement in quality of play. Reducing to 70 while keeping the new mid-October start date of the regular season would also allow two significant changes: under my schedule, teams that get scheduled to play on Christmas Day on ESPN/ABC and TNT would get a mandatory four days off afterward to be with their families at home — no games for any of those dozen teams after Christmas until Dec. 30. And, it would allow the league to make the post-All-Star break as long as it wants. A whole week? No games until the following Saturday/Sunday? Fine by me. Especially with the earlier trade deadline now in place, a whole week off for everyone would allow newly acquired players significant practice time with their new team. Now, owners would complain about losing six home games and the revenue they get from them. But, really: is a fan in Milwaukee really going to miss those second games against Indiana or Detroit or Charlotte in a given year? (And, vice versa for fans of those teams.)
Steve Aschburner: The right number is 82. The ideal schedule would look like this season’s or maybe something slightly airier. Let’s let the extra week folded into the 2017-18 schedule play out to see if it has the desired result in rest and recovery, and then maybe stretch things by an additional week next season. Better that than to cut back to, say, 66 games, which would reduce revenue for both the owners and the players, while ending much of the fun in comparing teams and stars across eras. Say bye, too, to modern players scaling lifetime statistical categories unless they plan to stick around for an extra three or four seasons. At some point, it no longer will make sense to argue about the superiority of the most highly conditioned, prepared and doted-upon athletes in history if they’re swaddled in bubble wrap relative to the legends of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s who gutted out four games in five nights while flying commercially.
Shaun Powell: This marks the 50 year anniversary of the 82-game schedule, but it’s really meaningless to have an intelligent conversation about shortening the schedule until players and owners and networks agree to shorten their wallets. And we know that’s not happening. The ideal length would be 70-75 games but good luck getting owners to refund the networks about 15-20 percent, and the networks offering rebates to sponsors, and the players taking pay cuts.
John Schuhmann: I’ve long thought that 72 games — three against each team in your conference, two against each team in the other conference — would be a better number, further reducing back-to-backs and general schedule stress. Now, if we want to get to a 1-16 playoff format and a balanced schedule, then there would need to be a system that rotates your three-game opponents through the years. Gate and local TV revenue would suffer some, but a reduction in total games doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in national TV games. In fact, those national TV games would become more important and less likely to be hampered by injuries or fatigue.
Sekou Smith: I agree with the Commissioner, there is nothing particularly “magical” about the 82-game schedule. There’s only something sentimental about it, mostly because we’ve grown accustomed to that number over the course of the past five decades. The number of games is not relevant if the end goal is to find a sweet spot for player rest and the finest product that can be produced for the consumption of the basketball public. Perhaps a stretch provision of the current season is more important than a reduction in the number of games. We’re already starting the season a week earlier this season, why not another week or two earlier? An improved NBA calendar, to me, is like an improved school calendar (for those of you with school-age children, you know where I’m coming from). The number of days stay the same. But the start and end date and the built in breaks are what really matter. Would a 12-game reduction to 70 regular season contests satisfy all involved? I think so, in many respects. It would also allow for a stretching of key dates (All-Star, trade deadline, Draft, free agency, etc.) over the course of the calendar. My ideal NBA season would include all of those key dates during the course of the regular season so that “offseason” felt more like a break than it does now.
* * *