82 Game Schedule Not a Good Idea for NBA

Word is we may yet have an NBA season. With both commissioner David Stern and NBA player union rep Billy Hunter smiling and giggling like school girls all over the presser podium the end to the heinous lockout nightmare is finally within sight.

And it may be closer than you think.

Both Billy Hunter and player rep Derek Fisher have hinted that an 82-game season may still be possible. This is a horrible idea.

[Related: NBA, players on cusp of agreement]

After the 1999 NBA lockout ended “at the eleventh hour” a new schedule had to be put together in the four weeks it takes for teams to hold abbreviated training caps, sign free agents to fill out required roster sizes, and generally prepare for the rigors of a season.

There’s also the matter of arena scheduling to consider, meaning that teams will have to play games around other, already-scheduled events. This has the unfortunate effect of forcing tired teams to play more back-to-backs and games per-week than are good for them.

Or good for the game itself.

As David Stern and Co. stuffed as many games into three months as was humanly possible after the 1998-99 stoppage suddenly jump-started February 5th of ’99, teams found themselves playing as many back-to-backs in 50 games as they normally would have in a 5 1/2 month 82-game schedule. Studies done on winning percents of teams on the second night of a back-to-back show the winning percent to be only about 43%.

If these weren’t tough enough, each team played an average of two grueling back-to-back-to-back sets, a phenomenon never found in the course of a normal season, not to mention the need for sets of four-games-in-five-nights stretches to try and refill the coffers.

Quality of play plummeted in the NBA that season, with a 3-point-line-era low 91.6 points-per-game put up on average, with what at first glance seems to be a great defensive rating. On closer inspection we find that offensive production actually took a nose dive artificially inflating D-ratings.

Note: Defensive rating is an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions

Offensive rating is an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions

Per BasketballReference.com. As there’s a definite number of points scored each season, the league average of O-rating and D-rating will always be equal. Simplified, the higher the league’s ORtg the worse the defense.

When you get tired what goes first? The legs. When the legs go what happens? The jumper stops falling, you find yourself unable to elevate around the rim, and you have a tougher time getting to those loose balls and rebounds for second chances.

The league average field goal percentage for the seasons immediately before and after the debacle of ’99 were an average .450 percent, compared to the ’99 season’s .437. O-rating the year before and after was an average 104.5. The shortened ’99 season saw a modern era low 102.2 offensive rating.

In short, it wasn’t very good basketball as the worst 2-point percentage of field goals in the modern era were unceremoniously attained.

Perspective: The average O/D-rating the last four years in the NBA has been 107.675, with a high of 108.3 in 2008-09 and low 107.3 in 2010-11. Field goal percentage was .459 last year and the average points-per-game over the last four years was 99.975.

Contrary to many in 1999 players are in great shape (amazingly, maybe even Eddy Curry, if reports are accurate), many playing overseas or organizing or participating in various “playground tours” and charity events. So they’re gonna be ready to go, physically.

Let’s assume for a moment that a deal is reached by mid-week, next. With the weakest free agent crop in years, the free agency period should settle itself relatively quickly. The league’s schedule maker, Matt Winick is a wizard, and you can bet he’ll quickly find a way to tweak the slate so as to ensure that valuable division-deciding and marquee games are preserved wherever possible.

We could be –and frankly should be– seeing NBA games played by Thanksgiving at the latest. Games through November 14 have already been cancelled, and some arenas have reportedly already filled dates previously slated for NBA games with other events.

95 total Eastern Conference games have been cancelled for an average of 6.3 games lost per-team. Six teams will miss seven games, a conference high, and the Washington Wizards will miss only 5, a conference low.

104 Western Conference games have been cancelled for an average 6.9 games lost per-team. Five teams will miss eight games, a league high, and the Denver Nuggets will miss 5 games, a conference low.

Weird lockout winner sidenote: The Utah Jazz’s toughest road trip of the season was dismissed with the cancellation of the first two weeks of the NBA schedule by commissioner David Stern.

Utah Jazz president Randy Rigby has said it takes about a month to prepare for an NBA season, but taking the above into account, doing so in about three weeks, maybe less, would be conceivable.

It’s been the author’s opinion for some time now that we would probably get about 72 games in this NBA season. And that’s plenty. The NBA owners insisted on holding out for a new collective bargaining agreement more in their favor than the last. They will get that. There’s no need to make the fans suffer more so that they can recover even more money that they willfully forfeit.

They made their bed. They can sleep in it. Fans, coaches, and players and their families shouldn’t be further punished for actions not their own.

It’s been ugly enough during this almost-entertaining fiasco. Let’s not also compromise the quality of the game, please. We’ve been there, done that, and it wasn’t pretty.

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