While penning a story on what the lockout could mean to the Celtics last week, we noted that a shortened season -- and the resulting frenzied scheduled cramming in as many games as possible into a tight time frame -- might be disastrous for these Celtics:
Say the NBA lockout plays out as it did during the 1998-99 season, where owners and players didn't reach an agreement until mid-January and the season didn't begin until early February. On the surface, a veteran team like Boston that has struggled to the finish line each of the past two seasons would welcome a 50-game slate. But consider that those 50 games would be crammed in a four-month span, with plenty of back-to-backs and constant game action, and that could be incredibly dismaying for a team that thrives with as much recovery time as possible.
But what does history tell us about how veteran teams fare in shortened seasons? The folks at ESPN Stats and Info crunched the numbers and it's a little bit more encouraging than you might expect. From a lockout packet distributed by ESPN researchers Peter Newmann, Gregg Found, and John McTigue:
If a work stoppage does shorten the upcoming NBA season, history tells us the more experienced teams would likely benefit the most.
In the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season, the Spurs (the second-oldest team) defeated the Knicks (the fifth-oldest team) in the NBA Finals. The four oldest teams at the end of the season were the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference (Heat, Pacers, Magic) and the top seed in the West (Spurs).
At the end of the 2010-2011 season, the Heat, Lakers, Mavericks, Celtics and Bulls were the five oldest teams.
Just as the older teams benefited, the younger teams struggled. Two of the three youngest teams in the shortened season were the Grizzlies and the Clippers. They were the only teams to win fewer than 10 games in the 50-game season.
The two youngest teams at this season's end were the Timberwolves and Raptors, who had two of the worst three records in the NBA.
Would a shortened season aid Boston in 2011-12? Let's hope we don't have to find out and that the league plays a full 82-game slate. But it's something to ponder -- and maybe ease the pain -- as both sides posture over their willingness to lose an entire season.