The NBA season is no doubt a marathon. It starts with training camps in October and if a team is lucky enough to get to The Finals, it doesn’t end until the end of June.
The eight months of traveling, and unlike baseball, the trips are just in and out of a city. They don’t allow players to stay in a city for three or four days, depending on the length of a series.
However, like they usually do, the star players are making the last few weeks of the season a joke, in that many of them take the last few games off. Just the other day, LeBron James said he was going to take the balance of the regular season off, to order to rest up for the playoffs.
James took time off here at the end of the season too. Apparently, he will be joined on the bench by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his teammates on the Heat.
We aren’t picking on them, because you will see a great many all-star caliper players missing games throughout the last week of the campaign.
And if the playoffs started tomorrow, they would be able to go. They aren’t injured, they are resting.
David Stern, the
dictator commissioner, in a high-profile move (the kind he loves) fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for telling Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker to go home at the end of a road trip, therefore missing a game against the Heat.
Why no action here, Mr. Stern?
The NBA season used to be much shorter, and players didn’t miss the last week of action.
In 1966-67, the season opened on October 15th and the regular season ended March 19th, cutting at least two weeks off the span in which the season is currently played in. However, of the first team All-NBA team that season, which included Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West, only West missed games toward the end of the year, and he played the last game, scoring one point.
The current players don’t want to have reduced minutes, because it will hurt their statistics, and they certainly don’t want that. Guess West didn’t care about his numbers.
In 1976-77, the season started about a week ahead of where it starts now and ends about a week sooner as well. Four of the league’s first team all-NBA players (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Thompson, Paul Westphal, and Elvin Hayes) played more than 80 regular season games. The other, Pete Maravich played till the end, but missed time in March with an injury.
Ten years later, 1986-87, the league was on its current timetable of starting around Halloween and ending around April 20th. The first team stars that year were Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kevin McHale, and Hakeem Olajuwon. McHale did miss some April games, but returned to play the last couple of contests. Jordan and Johnson each played over 80 games, with Jordan playing them all.
In 1996-97, the least amount of games played by the best players, who were Jordan, Olajuwon, Tim Hardaway, Karl Malone, and Grant Hill, were the 78 played by Olajuwon. Even Hill, whose career has been destroyed by injuries, played in 80 contests that season.
So, when did this sitting out the last couple of weeks start? It’s a slap in the face to the ticket buyers around the league that the stars aren’t playing the late season games.
Why doesn’t Stern do anything about it. The first round of the playoffs has a tremendous amount of days off built in, so players certainly are able to rest during this time.
It doesn’t help that most of the playoff spots have been decided in each conference for several weeks.
If what Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich did early in the year bothers the commish, so should this. If the players aren’t going to play, then the regular season should be shortened.