The NBA regular season is an absolute joke. Even with a shortened schedule of 72 games, it is clear the league needs to make more changes. Players are getting hurt at an alarming rate, star players are resting for big games, and fans are not getting the experience they deserve. The NBA is typically ahead of other leagues when it comes to changing things up, but they are behind on this issue.
The number of injuries that have occurred this season is absurd. There is currently a running total of 72 players who have missed 20 or more games. That means 14% of all of the players in the league have missed at least 20 games. While times are different given the pandemics’ impact on players missing games, those numbers are still alarming. The Sixers just endured four straight losses where they were missing two or more starters in all but one game. It is those kinds of streaks that should have the league worried.
The constant threat of injury is what leads teams to use load management. Doc Rivers is responsible for managing that with Joel Embiid. Given Embiid’s prolific injury history, it makes it even more important to ensure that he remains healthy. Sure sitting him at the end of blowouts is an option but he is still required to go full speed for at least twenty minutes. A player like Embiid needs entire days to rest given the rigorous schedule, and that requires him to sit out games.
Teams can get away with resting their star players and continuing to win games, but another perspective is the fans. Imagine paying a decent amount of money to see a Sixers game and getting word the night before that Embiid is resting that game. As a true fan, you look at that and understand the bigger picture, but a small part of you has to be irritated. The league has tried to crack down on this especially for primetime games but teams are still able to get away with it.
The bottom line is that the regular season either needs to be cut shorter or it needs to be spaced out more. The league would likely not want to cut games due to revenue losses. However, stretching the season out would cut into the offseason, which players do not like either.
In all likelihood, if the league were to change the schedule, it would not look that different than this year. They could simply carry on with the 72 game schedule that is in place now. Each team plays three games against each team in their conference and two games against each team in the opposing conference. Throughout a regular NBA season without a pandemic looming, they could do this and potentially eliminate back-to-backs.
Players would probably still complain about the number of games, but that scenario is the best case. It allows for a less condensed schedule while allowing for the league to keep a constant stream of revenue coming in. One might argue the regular season is just a combination of meaningless games because the real season starts with the playoffs, but that is a topic for another time. Until then, we can hope the Sixers can load manage their way to the playoffs and be at full strength for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
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