Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rest. In pieces.

Steve Kerr's heart is in the right place, but it's pretty much alone there. Nothing tests the maxim "No man is an island" like saying "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's all take a pay cut!"

That was the gist of what the Golden State Warriors coach said the other day, addressing an issue that shouldn't be an issue but that NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made one. He sent out a strongly worded memo suggesting (or at least hinting) that team owners should lean on their players and coaching staffs not to take rest days for premier network games.

This is not, contrary to Silver's cleverly crafted memo, because the NBA is standing up for the fans' right to get what (and who) they paid for when they drop a pile on tickets. It's because the networks forked out goo-gobs of money to air the premier games, and have made it known they're not pleased when marquee players choose to sit them out.

That the players are doing so for entirely legitimate reasons -- i.e., to lessen the chances of injury, and to make sure they're in peak condition for the playoffs -- doesn't seem to matter. Neither does the fact the obvious solution to this is the one Kerr suggested, but which will never happen: Shorten the season.

"I wouldn't be opposed to it, even at the expense to my own salary, but it's something that everyone would have to agree to," Kerr said this week. "I think even just going down to 75 games, I think that would make a dramatic difference in schedule. Now I don't see that happening because there is money at stake for everybody."

True. Even though it's obvious the NBA's 82-game regular season is absurdly long, no one's going to vote to do the sensible thing and cut it back to 75 (or 70, or 65) games. That's because, as Kerr says, it would cost everyone money. And very few others are going to be willing to join Kerr on that particular island.

So what's the solution, now that the best one is off table?

One is to rework the schedule so teams aren't making as many ruinous road trips, which seems reasonable. The Blob would even suggest severely cutting back on inter-conference play. Everyone makes one Western (or Eastern) swing per season. Other than that, they play among themselves.

Another solution would be to spread those 82 games over a longer period of time, a ridiculous idea. The NBA season already lasts longer than the Hundred Years' War. It's an eight-month slog, the longest season in American sports if you don't include NASCAR. Now you want to stretch it out even more? A, what, September-to-June season?

Can't see it. Unless you're a diehard NBA fan, the NBA season takes up too much of the calendar as it is. If the average sports fan isn't paying attention to the League in October -- on the reasonable grounds that it's six months before any of this matters -- what do you think he or she is going to do with September games?

And, please, don't start with "Why do these guys need rest, they make all that money?"  First of all, what they make doesn't magically make them superhumans immune to injury and/or fatigue -- especially as they get older. Second of all, they're not making all that money to play a January game against the Sixers. They're making it to help their teams win when it counts, in May and June.

So periodically resting the LeBrons or Kawhi Leonards is simply making wise use of your investment. And if it happens to be a game for which you bought tickets, or for which the networks shelled out a ton of coin ... well, it's like any marketplace decision.

Let the buyer beware. And plan your purchase accordingly.

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