The NBA Thinking Out Of The Box…

Yesterday, ESPN programs were filled with reports that the NBA is considering some changes to their schedule.  One of the talking heads said that something had to be done because the schedule as it stands is “grueling”.  With all due respect to that particular talking head – who I did not recognize – the NBA schedule is not grueling; it is merely too long.  According to the reports yesterday, the NBA’s “scheduling considerations” include 3 elements:

  1. Reducing the number of regular season games
  2. Instituting a mid-season tournament
  3. Adding “play-in games” for the NBA Playoffs

Let me address these ideas in order.  I have been a proponent of cutting back the NBA schedule from the current 82 games since the day these rants came into existence.  My preferred number for the regular season schedule would be 58 games wherein every team plays every other team twice.  The team schedules would be balanced; the season could be shortened if that is one of the objectives; regular season games would become more meaningful, and – who knows? – maybe star players might actually play in every game instead of taking random nights off.  Count me as a strong supporter of a shorter NBA regular season.

However, as “Deep Throat” advised Woodward and Bernstein:

  • Follow the money …

Money is the enemy of shortening the season.  Currently, owners get 41 home games where they can fill the arena, sell beers, collect parking fees and the like.  Cutting out games on the schedule means cutting out home games for every team and that reduces one of the revenue streams.  I cannot imagine that a majority of NBA owners will like the idea of losing those revenues.

That would seem to be where the “mid-season tournament” would come in.  But here is the problem with any sort of evaluation of the “mid-season tournament”:

  • I have not run across any description of what it might be or when it might happen.

This concept works in English soccer; the FA Cup games are woven into the schedules of the teams playing in the various levels of English soccer.  The “tournament” has comparable status with winning a league championship – particularly in the leagues below the Premier League.  Since there are only 30 NBA teams, the NBA’s version of a “mid-season tournament” cannot be a simple bracket of all the teams.  There will have to be byes given out – – or maybe this would be a real way to generate interest:

  • Invite two international teams to participate creating a 32-team field and then go bracket-crazy.

That sort of wrinkle might generate interest in the early round games of the “mid-season tournament” but as for the rest of the idea, count me lukewarm at best until I see the details.

There is another detail to be worked out for the “mid-season tournament”:

  • When would it take place?

If the NBA schedules it during January when the NFL playoffs are ongoing, it will be lost in the wilderness.  It cannot be earlier than January for it to have any meaning so it will have to happen after the Super Bowl.  It could fit into the February sporting calendar nicely – – except that the NBA already blocks out a full week of that time with its silly All-Star Game nonsense.  By the time March rolls around, it is getting a bit late in the season and teams will be focused on playoffs and not some tournament that might or not might not mean anything to anyone.  This is not a trivial issue…

Then there is the idea of adding 4 play-in games for the playoffs.  Essentially the teams that finish 7th and 8th in each conference would not get automatic playoff slots; they would have to play a single elimination game against the teams that finish 9th and 10th in the conference to get in.  This adds 4 “games of consequence” games on the table for networks to cover; you know the networks will hype the games as important when – in reality – teams that finish between 7th and 10th in the standings will have little to no impact on the playoffs about 10 days after the play-in games.  This idea seems harmless.  Play-in games will be more interesting than regular season games between two mediocre teams but let us not get overwhelmed here.

Kudos to the NBA for pondering these sorts of things.  It will be interesting to see if any of these ideas get any traction in the light of revenue reduction for the teams as a whole.

ESPN had another piece of news yesterday.  Bob Ley announced that he is retiring at the end of June after 40 years at ESPN; he was there when they turned the lights on.  Ley was never one of the “bombastic” presences on ESPN, but he was always enjoyable and informative.  His stewardship of Outside the Lines will be a standard for his successors there – and it will not be an easily achievable standard.

Bonne chance, Bob Ley.

Finally, consider these two definitions from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Bar:  A place where lonely, desperate people go to get hammered enough to find other lonely, desperate people suddenly irresistible.

Bartender:  A psychotherapist who keeps a damp rag slung over a shoulder.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………