Open Letter to Adam Silver: Make the NBA Schedule Like Baseball

April 9, 2015

RE: NBA Schedule Proposal

TO: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Dear Mr. Silver,

I have a proposal to improve the NBA’s regular season scheduling. It seems that the league’s schedule is becoming more of a talking point among the sport’s talking heads and fans. I am sure you are well aware of the variety of issues and corresponding opinions to those issues, so I won’t rehash those. Instead, I will now propose a possible solution that I hope will help the NBA’s owners, players, and fans.

Proposal

Make the NBA schedule more like Major League Baseball by having “home stands”

Details

  • Two teams play each other 2-3 times in a row over 5-8 days in the same arena
  • If a visiting team plays more than one team on a road trip, they are only to play geographically close teams

Goals

This proposal hopes to achieve the following two goals. Don’t worry, each goal has a lot of sub-goals. I just thought it would catch your attention if I only said two.

  1. Increase interest in the regular season
    • Create more rivalries by making these home stands mirror a playoff series
    • More marketing and promotional opportunities
      • The league and individual teams and TV networks can promote road trips
      • Visiting teams, players, and local businesses (What restaurant in Salt Lake City did Russell Westbrook go to last night?) can increase their “brands” (are you rolling your eyes at the use of “brands”, too?) by staying in one place longer
    • Reduce the resting of players who appear to be healthy and able to play
    • Reduce “scheduled losses,” wherein teams know in advance they will struggle in certain games because they are playing 4 games in 5 nights in three cities,  in the second game of back-to-back games, etc.
  2. Reduce the amount of travel for teams and media
    • Cut down travel costs
      • Less use of planes; bus and/or trains would be encouraged.
      • It’s better for the environment, and you can say you’re reducing the league’s carbon footprint
      • Better hotel rates since teams will be staying for longer than one or two nights (Teams will have more leverage in group rate negotiations since they’re staying longer. I could be wrong about this. I have no idea how hotels work.)
    • No back-to-back games in different cities, whether home/away or away/away
    • Media members will stop whining about the schedule, incessantly bringing up Popovich getting fined for resting guys on a TNT game, and rehashing how tough guys were back in their day.

The Traveling Aspect

One of my favorite parts of this “home stand” idea is that travelling for teams will be less hectic. For example, the last five games for the Atlanta Hawks this season are away/home/away/home/away, creating a NYC-Atlanta-DC-Atlanta-Chicago travel schedule over eight days.

By having a home stand against a single team, this allows players to be more rested as the season continues since travel is reduced.

Another wrinkle I propose is that teams playing more than one team on a road trip will only play geographically close teams. For example, in cities/areas with more than one team, the visiting team stays there for two 2-4 game series no matter what. (This would be New York City, Los Angeles, and maybe Chicago/Milwaukee.) You can also group together other areas and market those swings, like Miami/Orlando (could be promoted as the “Florida Series” or something catchier) or Cleveland/Detroit/Toronto (“The Great Lake Series”) or Salt Lake City/Denver (“Can Houston Make It Through The Mountain Pass?”).

Now The Bad Part

With any plan like this, there will be consequences, intended and unintended. Here are a few “cons” I have come up with:

  1. Bad match-ups last more than one night. The Pistons front office won’t be happy with hosting the tanking 76ers for three games when they could have the star-filled Oklahoma City Thunder coming the next night. (This is what happened in December.)
  2. A team with injuries can catch another team at the wrong time. What if Cleveland was playing away at Golden State and the Clippers only once during the season when LeBron took his two week December vacation? That’s a better chance of 2-4 losses in a row than playing those teams at different points during the season.
  3. Would have to reconfigure the current “unbalanced” schedule. Currently teams play their division opponents more than non-divisions teams and play more games against teams in the same conferences than the other conference. The current system of only playing one road game against each team in the other conference wouldn’t cut it.
  4. What is the affect of playing 2-3 weeks of road games? Would teams coming back from a long road trip need extra rest before their home stand?

The current schedule is based on decades of the entrenched economic interests of the owners and TV networks. Implementing a radical overhaul of the schedule affects the TV schedule (TV is the most important revenue source for the NBA, but you know that already) and arena revenue. The conference/division set up would have to be disassembled or altered. There are a lot of moving parts in setting up a home stand schedule.

Home Stand Alternatives

Given the complicated logistics of a home stand-based NBA schedule. Here are some easier-to-implement alternatives you could use starting next season:

  1. Road trips have to include more than one game.
  2. Home stands have to include more than one game. (These first two alternatives alleviate the hectic travel schedule.)
  3. If the visiting team is in a city with more than one NBA team (or an area with another team within a 2-3 hour drive), they have to play the other team(s) within that city/2-3 hour driving radius. It’ll save money (lower travel costs), lessen the carbon footprint of the NBA, and create marketing opportunities for home and away teams and players.
  4. Have series’ against division opponents only. They play the most games against each other already, so this wouldn’t reorganize the schedule balance.
  5. Combined with Alternative Four, only have the division series’ at the end of the season. Mirror college basketball and put emphasis on the conference/non-conference schedule. This will increase the interest in divisions, the playoff race, and foster rivalries.

I hope you take these ideas under consideration. Enjoy Atlanta during the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals.

Thanks,

Jay

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About Jay

Health Policy Wonk. Slow long distance runner. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Cameroon '06-'08. Former Night owl.
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