The NBA season is a long stretch of games, and in recent years the grueling nature of the season has presented a problem to teams, broadcasters, and the league itself: star players sitting out of marquee games.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is often credited with popularizing the trend now used across the league. During the 2016-17 season, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green all missed games played on national television.
The NBA has now taken steps to cut down on how tough the schedule can be on teams. According to a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the 2017-18 schedule will have significant differences that may help alleviate the problem of resting stars.
According to Windhorst, changes to the schedule are to include:
• An elimination of situations where teams play four games in five days or 18 games in 30 days.
• A reduction in the number of times teams play five games in seven nights to just 40 instances across the entire league (1.3 per team). Last season, this happened 90 times (three per team).
• A reduction in the number of times teams will play games on back-to-back nights. This season teams will average 14.9 “back-to-backs” per team, down from 16.3 per team during the 2016-17 season.
• A reduction in the number of road trips in which a team plays just one game by 17 percent. The NBA will also reduce single-game road trips over 2,000 miles by 67%.
• An increase in weekend games from 549 to 568, with most of the increase to come on Saturdays. Previously the NBA avoided Saturdays and Sunday afternoons during football season to dodge conflicts.
These changes are possible in large part because of the decision to begin the season a week earlier than normal. While it remains to be seen if these adjustments will be enough to encourage coaches to play their best players in national games, it shows the league has taken the matter seriously.
The 2017-18 NBA season tips off on October 17 in Golden State, with the reigning champions taking on an opponent yet to be named.