Brad Rock: Lockout was a gift; NBA season is too long
SALT LAKE CITY —
With the NBA lockout ended, reports say it's going to be a 66-game season, starting Christmas Day. Instead of Nov. 1, they'll be lifting off at the hap-happiest season of all.
There'll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting.
Actually, a late 2011 launch date sounds great to me. It's not like anyone is really paying attention in November. Just like TV commercials, you know they're there but you're just not focusing.
Christmas or New Year's should be the starting point of every season.
The NBA is a nice product. You want moves, NBA players have 'em. It's just not something most people follow for the entire eight months. Baseball plays 162 games a year, but that's another story. Basketball is far less patient. Since short and quick is how people use social media, why not do the same with the basketball season?
Fans aren't really engaged in December, either. It's one of the lowest attended months, unless until a team is out of playoff running early and the fans abandon it down the stretch. Last year's Jazz sold out just two games in December. One was the LeBron Show, on the 8th, and the other was during Christmas vacation, on the 27th.
The previous season the Jazz sold out only one game before Christmas.
You have to wonder how engaged even the players are before the turn of the calendar. Of a normal 82-game schedule, they are paying attention, what, 66 times a year? Some nights they go through the motions like a checkout clerk.
Speaking of shortened seasons, it's a little-known fact the last 16 games of the season don't really matter anyway. Of the 16 teams that made last year's playoffs, all of them would have done so if the season had ended on March 14, when all the teams were at or near the 66-game mark. Of those, only four ended up with a different seeding in April than they would have in mid-March (Boston and Chicago were tied for first).
In short, the good teams don't need 82 games to make their point.
There are some natural hitches in any plan to shorten the season. For example, money. Owners wouldn't make as much over an abbreviated schedule. OK, then pay the players less. Less work equals lower pay. It's a formula that works in almost every other business, NFL included. The average NFL salary is less than half the NBA's, but they play a 16-game regular season.
The length of an NBA season hit home to me the second year I covered the Jazz. It was March, 15, 1992, 6 a.m. in Houston. I was in the lobby of a hotel, talking with Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson while waiting to go to the airport. I mentioned that if I had been covering college basketball, I'd already be making vacation plans. He reminded me there were enough NBA games still remaining to equal an entire college season.
He wasn't kidding. I still had 16 regular-season games and 16 playoff games ahead.
A shorter season would help smaller-market, superstar-challenged teams such as the Jazz. In general, the longer a series lasts, the more the talent differential shows. Same with the regular season. Some say a longer season actually favors younger legs. In that case, how come the hoary Dallas Mavericks are NBA champs?
College football and the NFL are so popular partly because they aren't playing every day. Once a week makes it an event; once every day or two makes it a routine.
As union reps and league officials took the podium in recent months, gravely laying out the ramifications of a lockout, I couldn't help thinking "Big deal."
I like the NBA. May it live forever. But familiarity breeds contempt. Or it could be that, like cheesecake and Cormac McCarthy novels, it's just too rich for an everyday diet.
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