The NBA has made numerous changes over the last several years to reduce schedule-related wear-and-tear on its players. The league has cut down on back-to-backs and on instances of teams playing four games in five nights, while coaches and organizations have been proactive about resting players on back-to-backs when they’re banged up or nursing a nagging injury.
According to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the league may not be done making tweaks to its schedule, either.
Silver told Sam Amick of USA Today that the league is not only considering adding intercontinental teams should air travel become faster and more efficient, but the league also may consider reducing the numbers of games it plays in order to facilitate such a massive change:
“There’s nothing magical about 82 games,” Silver continued. “It’s been in place for 50 years, but for the long-term planning of the league, as we learn more about the human body and the wear and tear of travel and the competitive landscape … invariably we’ll look at the regular season. And in looking at the regular season, it may create more opportunities for international franchises.”
While there may not be anything “magical” about the NBA’s traditional 82-game slate, there would be non-travel related consequences to such a change. The NBA may be a more global game than ever, which means the talent pool of players is deeper than ever before, but reducing the number of games in order to facilitate adding a few teams would further dilute that talent pool and leave even more also-rans treading water at the bottom of the superstar-crucial league.
Additionally, lessening the amount of games teams play would change historical milestones, allowing fewer opportunities for players to rack up the raw stats needed to climb the NBA’s all-time leaderboards in scoring, assists and more.
If these changes extend careers and lead to more money in the league or growth of the game globally than they could be worth the trade-offs, all of which are things Silver and the league will have to consider if they look at an expansion of the league or contraction of the schedule.