Before the NBA spends so much time planning to make money coming through an in-season cycle, would it be too much to ask Commissioner Adam Silver to spend some time fixing the playoffs?
The fourth game of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday had fans playing another game at half-time, a trend in these playoffs that is either too much luck or an accusation to a league that plays too many games and gives its players too little time. To restore Windows TV and prioritize it over the quality of its product.
Facing a 3-0 series deficit, the Dallas Mavericks survived Tuesday and beat the Golden State Warriors 119-109 in a game that largely ended from the second quarter onwards. The Warriors will try to finish a trip to the NBA Finals on their home soil Thursday.
But unless the Mavericks pull off one of the biggest miracles in league history, the series will fall apart massively.
One possibility:The Heat-Celtics series oscillates wildly from game to game
Survival:The Mavericks Warriors fall in Game 4 to avoid being invaded
You will not be alone. The Eastern Conference Finals, which drew 2-2 between Miami and Boston, still have a chance to recover. But four completely unbalanced blasts – two for each team – made it difficult for fans to invest any more time than they had to. It seems likely that we’ll make it to the NBA Finals with just one whole series of playoffs, the Eastern Semifinals between Boston and Milwaukee, that’ll be fun enough to remember five years from now.
Sometimes, that’s how you function in sports. Not every match, every season, every playoff is as exciting as we hope.
But it’s also important to recognize the amount of injuries that shaped these matches. Whether it’s Ja Morant not being in Memphis at the end of the second round against the Golden State, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid physically collapsing against Miami, or Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton not being able to make it onto the field even for a minute of playoffs or Miami’s Kyle Lowry He is fighting against the Miami team. Hamstring injury throughout the post-season, many of these teams weren’t even close to their best at this most crucial time of the year.
A rational league whose priority is to entertain fans and put their best produce on the ground would take this information and ask if an 82-game schedule with a post-season that requires teams to play every day is the optimal build. Instead, the NBA’s answer appears to be to add more games to the schedule, more physical demands on its players and more injury risk for a prize that has no membership value.
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The Athletic reported last week that the NBA is moving more toward implementing an in-season championship early in the 2023-24 season, which has apparently been one of the top-priority silver agenda items in the past few years.
A European football fan, Silver envisions a world in which NBA teams have as many awards as they can win, including one in the middle of the season. Of course, the NBA is not like the UEFA Champions League, which provides a platform for the best teams from various European leagues to play each other.
For the NBA, a season’s championship would be nothing more than regrouping the same teams with crafted stakes. It will give the NBA the opportunity to sell a new TV package and fill owners’ pockets with money, but everyone will know there was only one championship awarded in June.
If the NBA used the in-season tournament gimmick to radically reshape its scheduling approach, it might be worth a try. If money from a league in the season allowed the NBA a shorter season and longer time between matches, it would be worth the trade-off for better playoffs with healthier players.
But if a season’s championship is going to make the season longer and more demanding, increasing injury risks and reducing actual playoffs, it’s hard to see what the league is hoping to achieve.
NBA Posteason is often compelling, but this spring has shown that they aren’t impervious to the physical challenges they place on players. If enough key players are injured or compromised, the best teams will not progress and the matches will not be worth watching. Are you trying to decide the best team or host a battle of attrition?
If the answer is the former, then the obvious answer for the NBA would be to reduce the number of regular season games from 82 to at least 72, get rid of back-to-back during the regular season and give teams at least two days between games during the playoffs.
But the potential addition of a mid-season championship suggests that the NBA wants its best players to play more frequently, not be healthier and better rest before the already important playoffs.
Given how uninteresting and uncompetitive these conference finals have been so far, this seems to be the wrong direction.
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