Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The NBA All-Star Non-Break

Get Your Sit On
Item: NBA MVP LeBron James lobbies new NBA commissioner Adam Silver for a longer All-Star break.

Well, he's got a point... but it's telling that this is coming up now that (a) James is in his free agent walk year at age 29, (b) he's only getting part-time help from brittle Dwyane Wade, and (c) he's now, shh, starting to enter the part of his NBA career where he's not actually getting any better. James is now in his 11th year, and is now over 36K court minutes between the regular season and playoffs. He also just might be in the process of ceding Best Player in the World status to Kevin Durant. James is shooting for the best percentage of his career at over 57%, which is insane, but the boards, assists, blocks and steals are down in roughly the same amount of playing time, and the fouls and turnovers are up. He's still otherworldly, but the ceiling has been reached. Father Time is undefeated.

But independent of James' ulterior motives is this: NBA regular season games are getting better and better, and NBA rotations are getting shorter and shorter. (I know, it's hard to imagine that the NBA regular season is getting better for people in Philadelphia and New York. Trust me.) Combine that with the more than occasional 4 games in 7 days or less runs, and the fact that the league is increasingly filled with athletes who give their all at both ends of the court, and you wind up with injuries and days off, when you used to have, well, neither of these things. Along with the occasional Spur-level trolling move of just sending out the shock troops for games that you don't feel like you "need", or might want to avoid for an eventual Finals meeting, and we're getting to the point where the folks in the stands for regular season games seem like they are just being taken for a ride.

This is where low intensity NBA fans wonder why the season has to be 82 games long (mostly to ensure competitive balance, especially since so many teams have enforced extended road trips in the winter months), or how taxing it can really be when games are only decided in the last few minutes... and man alive, does the latter drive me nuts. No one ever takes baseball to task for too many extra inning games, or football for late cover the spread scores that causes the game to remain in doubt longer than it has any right to. But the NBA? Just ignore those first 43 minutes, folks, or how the team with the 5 to 10 point lead is much more likely to win, even though they have to make a few plays down the stretch. Gahhh.

I don't doubt that the average regular season game could be better with a longer All-Star break... but there's no great desire to stretch the playoff season into July, or to cut down the schedule. (Think about this: there is no such thing as a high seed NBA playoff team that's exposed as an absolute fraud, the way that at least 1-2 NFL division champions get shown up every year.) Sure, there's a month of pre-season that no one is really paying any attention to, but it only happens in early October, just barely 3.5 months after the end of the Finals. It's already one of the shortest off-seasons in sports.

So what's the solution? Well, the NBA would never go for this, but cutting the actual All-Star Game weekend down by a day, or rolling the game back earlier in the day so that it stops dragging late into Sunday night, the break would be more meaningful. Ending the silliness that is games on Thursday night for TNT before the All-Star Game would also be a win. If even the stars are getting two days off before the Game, then an actual day off because they can travel on Sunday night rather than Monday...

Well, that's got to make for a better product on the court, right? And since the regular season is actually harder than the never more intense than every other day playoffs, and the harder ticket for the NBA to sell... that's got to help, right?

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