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Mike Sorensen: Shorter NBA season made it better for everyone

Published: Sunday, May 6 2012 11:56 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) battles with San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) for a rebound as the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs play Monday, Feb. 20, 2012 at Energy Solutions arena in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — I don't know about you, but I enjoyed this past NBA regular season more than most.

And it had little to do with Blake Griffin's dunks, the two weeks of Lin-sanity or the season-long development of a young Jazz team.

It was because of the shortness of the season, an NBA season that was actually completed in four months, or four months and one day to be exact.

For several decades, the NBA regular season has run for nearly half of the year, from the end of October to the middle of April. Tack on the one-month preseason and the two-month postseason and the NBA drags on for nearly nine months. Only July, August and September are NBA-free.

It's just too long.

However, this year because of the lockout, the regular season had to be condensed into a four-month time period from Christmas Day to April 26. Counting the short preseason and postseason, the whole NBA season will last just over six months.

Why can't we do this every year?

The NBA has played an 82-game schedule for the last 40-plus years, but nobody really knows why. The NBA started playing an 82-game schedule during the 1967-68 season, up from 80 games in 1961-62 and 60 when it first started in 1946.

Except for lockout-shortened season in 1998-99 when they played 50 and this year's 66-game schedule, the NBA has stuck to its 82-game schedule.

The idea of a shorter-than-82-game schedule isn't new.

Sports Illustrated brought up the idea in a recent article and others have advocated it with varying degrees of proposals.

One writer suggested a 44-game schedule with just two games a week — a mid-week and a weekend game. Another proposed a 76-game schedule and there are other numbers in between.

I say keep the 66-game schedule we had this year, but make it more balanced.

If you kept the season at 66 games, you'd have enough games to play every team in the league on a home-and-home basis. That's 58 games. Then with the other eight games you could play each team in your division on an additional home-and-home basis.

So a Jazz season ticket-holder would be guaranteed to see every team in the league come through once during the season and would see an additional game against Oklahoma City, Denver, Portland and Minnesota.

With 16 fewer games, the races would generally be tighter, giving more teams to have hopes for the playoffs and the sense of urgency in regular-season games would increase.

Some folks worry what a shortened schedule would do to the record books. Fewer games would foul up the records, going back to 1946.

But unlike baseball where certain seasonal numbers have a special significance to them — 20 wins, 200 hits, 60 home runs, etc., basketball is different.

Think about it, can you give me the NBA record for total points in a season? Total rebounds or assists?

About the only record the average sports fan knows about the NBA is the 100 points Wilt Chamberlain scored in a single game 50 years ago and that one is always out there every time an NBA game is tipped off.

A reduced schedule would make a difference in career records, since players in the past all played 82 games.

It would almost guarantee that John Stockton's career records for assists and steals would never be broken (even with 82-game schedules every year, no one may ever approach his records). Also Karl Malone would likely stay in second place behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time points list. So it would be good for our Jazz heroes from the past.

Of course, the chances of the NBA switching to a 66-game season are somewhere between slim and none. Unfortunately it all comes down to money.

Two weeks ago deputy NBA commissioner Adam Silver insisted the league had no plans to shorten the schedule, saying, "If you cut the season shorter, we cut our revenues significantly."

More games are needed to pay the over-priced salaries of the players. Just like the spread-out playoff game schedule (another pet peeve of mine) is needed to get more games on TV and make more money.

But heck, if 82 is great for revenues, why not make it 100 games? How about 164 games? Then everyone could get twice as much money. Yea!

Of course that's absurd. But shortening the schedule by even 16 games a year, would improve the overall NBA product on the floor, save wear and tear on the players and keep a few bucks in the fans' pockets.

We can only dream.

email: sor@desnews.com

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