The 2017-18 NBA schedule is expected to drop soon, and when it does, you might notice some changes—fewer back-to-backs, more team-friendly travel and strategically placed National TV games among them.
As relayed by ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Association issued a memo to its squads that outlines a scheduling package for next season aimed at improving player rest and ensuring marquee names are not sitting out for nationally broadcast tilts. Here’s Windhorst with the skinny:
• Eliminating stretches of four games in five days and 18 games in 30 days.
• Reduction of five games in seven nights to just 40 instances across (1.3 per team), down from last year when it was on the schedule 90 times (three per team).
• Reduction in number of back-to-backs to 14.9 per team, down from 16.3 per team. In all, 40 back-to-backs have been eliminated from last season.
• Reduction of single-game road trips by 17 percent.
• Reduction in single-game road trips over 2,000 miles by 67 percent; there are only 11 of them on schedule.
• Increase in weekend games from 549 to 568, much of the boost coming on Saturdays. Previously the NBA avoided Saturdays and Sunday afternoons during football season to dodge conflicts.
The call to this action reached fever pitch last season after instances in which stars such as LeBron James, Chris Paul and the Spurs’ best players didn’t take the floor for some of the league’s many nationally televised affairs. The backlash was swift and cutting, with participants debating whether, say, LeBron owed it to the fans who paid top dollar to play instead of rest, or whether the casual viewer and fan needed to care about preserving player safety into the postseason enough to plan their ticket purchases around preceding and subsequent games.
Though the latest changes are a huge step in the right direction, they are not a panacea. The surviving instances of back-to-backs and four games in five nights will pave the way for certain coaches and organizations to rest their most prized assets. There will be rest nights for LeBron, and the Spurs most definitely won’t cease their player modulation approach.
But these tweaks give the NBA a leg on which to stand when speaking with advertisers and when scolding squads that ignore the importance of superstar availability on National TV. Mix those two together, and the league has created a viable model to deter enough marquee-matchup benchings for this issue to subside—until, of course, a top-10 star sits out an ABC game to rest, and it starts up all over again.