Blake Griffin can often be seen in Kia commercials or on highlight films posterizing his fellow NBA colleagues, but this past week he made headlines with comments to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger about what he thought an ideal length for the regular season would be.
“Sixty-six, spread over the same amount of time [as the current 82-game season],” Griffin told CBS Sports. “Fatigue and injuries, and better product. If you have less games, less back-to-backs, the product’s better. The fans will appreciate it more. You see those college guys playing so hard, but they play 36 games in the same amount of time we play 82 almost. I just think it would be a better product.”
This is what I’ve actually been saying all along. Others like John Wall and Kenneth Faried disagreed and said they thought the 82-game season was fine the way it is. Wall actually argued that he’d take more breaks, similar to the extended time they had last season during the All Star break.
So here’s the deal. The NBA would never shorten the season because of conspicuous financial reasons. The ramifications would significantly outweigh any of the foreseen positives that would potentially result from this. The league has become a multi-billion dollar industry, thanks in large part to global expansion, the amount of revenue being generated each season and these record-breaking TV deals. When you’re thriving as much as the NBA is, anything that could potentially harm that financial progress won’t happen.
But ideally, if we just ignore the reality of the effect it had financially, the season would be shortened to 66 games and the commencement would be on Christmas Day, highlighted by must-see matchups, similar to the way it is now. To counteract having to play grueling back-to-backs and those tough four games in five nights stretches, the season would be extended deeper into the summer.
As I often say, injuries are the biggest and worst variables in sports. Though it’s impossible to eradicate them altogether, there’s no question shortening the amount of games would help alleviate this problem to some degree. Not only is this helpful to players and teams, but it also produces a better product for the fans watching both in the arena and at home. Is there anything more demoralizing for someone who buys tickets well in advance to see star players perform, only to face the harsh reality of them not being able to suit up due to injury or “rest?” This would certainly help head coach Gregg Popovich refrain from resting players as much as he does because he simply wouldn’t need to.
Fans salivate at the thought of having an NBA season devoid of any real significant injuries. That gives us all the chance to watch the best players in the world all compete at the highest level for their respective teams in pursuit of June’s glory. Obviously under this new format, the NBA Finals would be pushed back to late-July or early-to-mid August (with the draft and free agency moving back as well).
And this wouldn’t be an issue in the sports world in terms of competing with the other major sports. The dry period after NBA free agency is a killer. Baseball is an incredibly long season and for casual fans, it doesn’t get really interesting until crunch time in late August. And football doesn’t really begin until the first week of September.
We also have the meaningless games conversation. People aren’t necessarily paying attention to the regular season anymore because of the joy of watching postseason basketball. But shortening the season would make it much more compelling because of how critical each game is. Losing streaks would be much more costly and you can bet LeBron James wouldn’t be taking two-week hiatuses.
Once again, it would NEVER happen. But it does make for an interesting debate. The margin of error for all teams would drastically decrease. The intensity would increase, bringing forth a more quality product. But until there’s a solution for making up the amount of money lost by decreasing the number of games, this remains a pipe dream.