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Stern and the NBA Should Realize Less is More

I’ve never liked the San Antonio Spurs. They’re the biggest competition for my Mavericks. Their style of play is sleep-inducing and a big contribution to the decline in the NBA’s popularity over the past 15 years. Add even the possibility that they intentionally tanked the 1997 season to get the top pick and it worked out is a microcosm of what’s wrong with our sports draft system, which I should get into later.

So I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: I actually sympathize with Gergg Poppovich and the Spurs on their latest controversy.

For those unaware, last week the Spurs faced the defending champion Heat in Miami in a game that was nationally televised. The Spurs were playing their fourth road game in five days. The Heat had nearly a full week off.

So Poppovich appeared to wave the white flag, sitting out several key players for the game. Tim Duncan, Manu Giunobli and were actually sent home to San Antonio.

NBA czar David Stern was not pleased. Even before the game started, he threatened severe consequences for the Spurs’ actions. Shortly after the Spurs barely lost to the heat, even leaden in the final minute with practically their D-League roster, he slapped a quarter-million dollar fine on the team. He expected his fellow fans to also be outrage that Pop would deprive the TV audience of his best guys; what he got was a number of people siding with the four-time champion coach.

There’s no doubt Stern hates the Spurs, as they’ve prevented his big market teams from ruling supreme while promoting boring basketball no one wants to watch (can’t blame him for disliking the latter). I could go on with a Grassy Knoll theory that he rigged the schedule so a tired Spurs team would get humiliated by his golden boys in South Beach, but this isn’t the place to get on that theory (oops, too late).

But here’s the big problem regardless of who it was benching his players: You want to make sure your teams put their full best lineup out every single game? DON’T FORCE THEM TO PLAY FOUR GAMES IN FOUR NIGHTS IN FOUR DIFFERENT TOWNS.

No one has a problem with players getting days off in baseball; heck the biggest criticism from many Rangers observers this past year was that Ron Washington DIDN’T give his stars enough days off. Basketball isn’t like that, but that’s because everyone assumes they won’t play every day, not even for a small stretch like that. Regardless of how much money they make, basketball is a much more grueling game than baseball, and making one team playing four0in0five play another with a week off is beyond ridiculous.

It could be solved with one simple solution: Less games in the schedule.

The NBA is right up there with the NHL (which is sadly ineligible at the moment) for having one of the most uneventful, pointless regular seasons in U.S. sports. It’s nearly impossible for casual fans to slog through 82 games in six months, especially when there’s almost no importance to finishing first since eighth place gets you into the playoffs. The fact that the season starts in the middle of football season – in which cities like Dallas give the game even less attention than they normally do – doesn’t make things any better.

Simply put, there are too many games for people to care about with little at stake for the six-month regular season. I’ll touch on improving the second of those problems in the future, including why I pick the arbitrary number I’m about to declare. But for now, here it is: Cut the season down to 66 games. It would essentially allow the league to have every team play three times a week with hopefully at least one day off in between every game and still complete the schedule in roughly the same six month time span.

Fewer playoff games would help as well. Not just reducing at least the first round back down to a best of five format, but also less rounds, which of course means less teams qualifying. But again, that’s another discussion for another time.

An old colleague of mine tells me that the main reason football continues to be number one this country is because the small number of games make each one more valuable. I have my debates on THAT being the reason everyone’s so gaga and forgiving toward that sport, fewer NBA games could help draw more attention to its regular season. For now through, ensuring every team gets adequate rest between games would ensure Stern doesn’t have to worry about problems like this again.

And yes, I have a full plan on how the schedule could be realigned to fit this shortened number. Stay tuned.

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One Response

  1. I’m so old I love the Spurs slow but steady wins the race basketball. I liked basketball when it was moving with Jerry West and his kind of basketball also, but today’s BB is like a combination of BB and kickboxing.What I would call bad neighborhood street ball. Do love the Mavs.

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