Would Fewer NBA Games Be A Great Idea For the League?

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    Updated: October 16, 2014
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    The National Basketball Association is one of the most exciting sports leagues on Earth. For 9 months, NBA fans get to enjoy 82+ games of their favorite basketball players giving it their all on the court in hopes of lifting the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy in June. Every seasons brings with it great teams, emerging stars, and bragging rights for respective fan bases. The sport is in a great place financially and popularity wise. But as good as the NBA is currently, there is always room for improvement. New commissioner Adam Silver comes off as a man that’s all about progression, so there will definitely be changes made to improve the sport. But with all the proposals I’ve heard from fans and executives during this past off-season, which changes if any are a realistic option for the NBA?


    Less, is Sometimes More…


    Two ways the NBA can improve their product on the floor is by eliminating the number of playoff teams while shortening the NBA schedule to 65-70 games. Eight playoff teams in both conferences can be shortened to six. Less playoff teams would work wonders for the competition on the court. The less teams allowed in the playoffs, the more important every game becomes. In the NBA, if a team loses 3-5 games because they decided to rest players, the ramifications may not be felt too deeply because there are still 77+ games left. But if the NBA eliminated four teams from the playoff brackets, then the importance of each game rises. Coaches will think twice before they rest a player in a game in January or February if there is 12-16 fewer games a season.

    A playoff scenario with 6 teams per conference would work exactly as the NFL does. The two highest seeds would get the first round off, and the lower 4 seeds would meet each other in a 5 or 7 game series. I understand that in the NFL it’s only one game between the first round and the second rounds of the playoffs. But with a shorter regular season in the NBA, the possible 7 games the lower 4 seeds would be playing would still be less than current format. Fewer games in the regular season equals less fatigue later in the season. Fresher legs and better competition is always a win-win. Fewer games would also mean no more back to backs. Dirk Nowitzki this week said a shortened NBA schedule would benefit players.

    Courtesy of zimbio.com 

    Players have been complaining about back-to-back games for years. They are terrible for the players and the fans. A team that has to travel to get to their next location while having a good amount of veterans on the roster is a recipe for a loss. By the 3rd quarter the traveling team or the team in the second of the back-to-back is wasted physically. It’s basically having a competitive advantage. Those games are also terrible for fans. Paying customers come to watch their favorite players play at a high level. Tickets to these games aren’t cheap.

    Neither is parking and food and whatever else a family purchases in the arena. No one wants to pay top dollar to see Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker scratched. Fans can’t blame the coaches because the coach’s ultimate goal is to have their players ready for the post season. The Fans gripe must come with the league and owners. The less games, the better the product on the court will be for all parties involved. Well, almost everyone. And therein lies the problem.


    The Owners Like To Make Money…


    There is one major reason no significant changes like the ones I proposed earlier would work, and reason is money. The owners would not sacrifice gate revenue in order for the product on the floor to improve and for the players to get more rest. It is just not happening. The owners are in the business of making money first and foremost, and winning comes second. Owners may say they want to focus on winning, which is true, but they’ll never let winning get in the way of the almighty dollar.

    As of January 2014, the average NBA team was worth $634 million dollars according to Forbes, which is a 25% increase from 2013. And in 2013 the NBA owners had a 6% increase in gate revenue which was an increase from 2012 (the lock out shortened season). The NBA did not release the exact dollar figures the teams made from the ticket sales, but a 6% increase over a season with some of the ticket prices around the country and that adds up to millions. These are the average tickets prices of all 30 NBA teams:

    There is no way the owners are forfeiting that type of money in the regular season, nor would they even consider forfeiting that sort of money in a playoff scenario where they can raise prices for an extra month or two depending on how far their respective team would get that post season. The only possible way I can see the owners even considering a scenario where they cut games off the NBA schedule is if the impending TV deal compensates them on average revenue basis for the money they would lose on the games not being played in their arenas. I’m not really a financial wiz so I can’t tell you if that’s a feasible option or not, or even if there is another way for the owners to still make up that money.

    All I know is the owners like making millions, and cutting games off the schedule without some form of compensation is a hard sell. Plus, the owners are just going to the most obvious question to players, if owners are going to forfeit money for a shortened NBA schedule, are players going to take less money as well? The answer will be a resounding no. Players are fighting to get more money now, no way the owners lose money, have no guarantee they’ll make that money back, and increase players wages.

    I’m ok with the 82 game season and with the way things are now. As the saying goes, “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I think with fewer games, maybe a full week off for the all-star break, and less back-to-back games, NBA players and fans would benefit highly. And the NBA is already is testing the 11 minute quarters theory with some pre-season exhibition games this season. But even with 11-minute quarters the stars of the team with get high minutes.

    All a 44-minute game means is a smaller rotation and even less playing time for bench guys. But the owners are at the center of it all. The men who sign the checks won’t do anything unless it makes sense for them financially. Nothing drastic is likely to happen anytime soon, or rather, not under the scenarios I’ve heard proposed anyway. This will be a long process and the NBA brain trust will have a lot of questions to answer before any of this even becomes a possibility.

    Only time will tell what will happen, if anything happens at all. Until then, let’s get ready for another great NBA season. This is going to be a special year, and I for one can’t wait.

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