Thursday, October 27, 2011
The good news and bad news of saving the full season
By Brian Kamenetzky
The progress of the last 24 hours or so has people on both sides of the negotiation contemplating (or not completely eliminating the possibility of) a full, 82-game schedule if a deal can be had by early next week. I'd be surprised if something is struck that fast and the logistical issues in preserving every game -- arena availability, realities of travel, next summer's Olympics in London, etc. -- are still significant, despite whatever contingency plans the league surely has in place. But given the equally significant financial incentives to get 'er done, for argument's sake let's say the i's get dotted, the t's crossed, and the league's supercomputers figure out how to squeeze a full slate into something resembling a normal NBA calendar.
From a competitive standpoint, this is the worst possible outcome for the Lakers.
Start with the wear and tear. It's one thing to play a compressed 50-game schedule, as was the case in '98-'99, when on a games-per-day basis the season was played about 20 percent faster. No easy task, but the tradeoff came in shortening the marathon. A compressed 82-game slate delivers all the bad stuff with none of the relief.
For most teams, there's no upside. For the Lakers, an older, elite team with championship aspirations, even less so.
Starting the season in early December would, if my math is correct (normal caveats apply), mean adding an extra game about every eight or nine days, or just over a game a week. This is a huge change, cutting down on off-days dedicated to recuperation and unfavorably tilting the ratio of travel-to-terrestrial days. Yeah, they travel in style, but constantly crossing time zones does goofy things to the human condition.
But it's not simply a question of how Kobe'sknees will respond, whether Pau Gasol would have time to shake the hamstring issues popping up periodically over the last few seasons in the event of another flare up, or anything related to Andrew Bynum. There are significant quality of play problems, as well. While I don't believe Mike Brown and his staff will try to reinvent the wheel with this Lakers roster, he's still going to put in his own system, which requires repetition. Unfortunately, L.A. won't get it. Training camp, when it happens, will be short. That's a given. In a compressed 82-game season, they Lakers would lose a healthy percentage of vital practice days, as well.
They didn't practice terribly well last year, and we saw the results. Context (i.e. a humiliating loss to Dallas and fresh motivation) takes care of some problems, but won't automatically make them a well-oiled machine. Even players as skilled as L.A.'s have to get on the floor and work.
If the goal is to preserve the highest quality of play, the NBA and the NBPA won't attempt to cram more games into the schedule than the calendar (and the human body) can handle. But there's no guarantee, since money so large a factor. And obviously beggars can't be choosers. If the the options are an imperfect 82-game season or no season at all, give me the former.
But for the Lakers, a squad that will make plenty of money no matter what the new CBA looks like and for whom playoff runs and titles are far more valuable than an extra 15 regular-season games, at this point a shortened season would be ideal.