Scheduling conflict

The NBA is returning! As a fan, I can think of no better news to receive over Thanksgiving weekend. (Although the invention of calorie-free pumpkin pie or news that canned cranberry sauce adds years to your life would have been in contention.)

Amidst all the raucous celebration of the NBA’s return from the barren wasteland of lockout, details about the proposed 66-game schedule have started to emerge. One detail in particular, is troubling from a fan’s perspective. Of the 66 games to be played, 48 will be conference games. For those of you who don’t like math this means each team will only play 18 inter-conference games (down from 30 in a traditional 82-game seasons). Taken a step further, this means every NBA team will not visit every NBA city.

When weighed against the potential despair of a cancelled NBA season, the proposed schedule doesn’t seem all that bad. In reality, this is a minor complaint in a sea of joy and anticipation for the return of professional basketball. The problem is, essentially, a matter of principle.

The lockout, when all the accountants and lawyers have gone home for the evening, was really just a delay in the enjoyment of basketball for fans around the country. Once the union is reformed, David Stern and Billy Hunter sign on the dotted line, and the arena doors in every NBA city are unlocked, fans will look back at the lockout not as an event that forever changed the course of the sport, but as a minor inconvenience that only increased their anticipation for the 2011-12 season.

Remember when you went to the water park with your family as a child? You would step through the gates and immediately want to sprint to the nearest slide, but first, your mother forced you to apply sunscreen and wait until it set in. The waiting seemed pointless and interminable, but once Mom gave you the OK, it was just a bad memory, right? That’s how the lockout will feel Christmas Day. So how did the NBA decide to reward its fans for waiting patiently while both sides squabbled over billions of dollars? By ensuring that 20 percent of them won’t see some of the league’s premier players and superstars. 18 inter-conference games means the Suns will play in only nine Eastern Conference cities, leaving the other six without the opportunity to see Steve Nash. In the Western Conference, six cities won’t get the chance to boo the Heat when they come to town. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be missing a mid-February game against the Bucks in US Airways Center, but to potentially not see Derrick Rose, LeBron, or Dwight Howard just seems wrong when you think about the stress of the lockout on the everyday fan, and how much each of us is looking forward to a repeat of last year’s spectacular season.

I understand why the NBA decided to schedule the season this way. As it is, the players will be playing a game three nights in a row at least once if not two or three times during the year. Back to backs, which are hard on veterans like Steve Nash and Grant Hill, will be more prevalent than in seasons past. This will be a tough season on the players no matter how you look at it. The sacrifice of inter-conference games is an attempt to limit the travel time of each team. However, when you consider that the players have gotten an extra two months rest this offseason, protecting them from their typical travel schedule seems unnecessary. The NBA had a choice to make, and as is the norm when the NBA makes up its mind about something, the fans got the short end of the stick.

The opportunity to engender some goodwill was sitting right there in front of David Stern and the league. They blatantly missed the opportunity. During the press conference to announce the 66-game season, Stern could have exclaimed that preserving fan enjoyment was the NBA’s No. 1 priority in creating the schedule. Thus, each team would visit every NBA city, even though this would come at the expense of conference games. In this scenario, a 66-game season would look like this:

  • Each team would play two games (home and home) with every other team in the league for a total of 58 games.
  • Each team would play its four division opponents two additional times for a total of eight games.

Though 30 inter-conference games over a shortened season would no doubt be less than pleasing to the players, the benefits of showing the fans how much they matter to the league as a whole would far outweigh the players’ dismay.

Like I said before, this is a minor complaint and more a matter of principle than anything else. I believe that this time around, the NBA and its players need to think about principle more than ever before, so that we aren’t right back in the lockout wasteland 6-10 years from now. For the time being, I’m just basking in the glow of a Christmas Day tripleheader and hoping that calorie-free pumpkin pie is ready by then.

Tags: Lockout Scheduling

  • Tony

    blah blah sarver is satan blah the lockout is his fault blah blah this team is doomed blah

    (pre-emptive strike)

  • Tony

    Only a douche would pretend to be someone else. Must be Sun Rises BS loser!!!!! Go ahead and spend your dollars for over-priced Suns tickets to watch your favorite owner Sarver yell at refs and get beer thrown at him by fans like what happened last season. all the while the team gets consistently blown out. LOSER!!

  • Jz

    Is it possible to acquire Beasley for Pietrus in case Hill doesn’t come back?

  • Tony


    why in the world would Minni trade Beasley for Peitrus? It would never happen, not even in NBA 2K.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Why would you want B-Easy in the Valley? Dude is a ticking time bomb.

    How wild. Training camp and free agency at the same time. Dudes will be hopping off planes and into practices, while other dudes will be in practice all sweaty and stinky and running out of the gym when told they’ve been traded or released. So amazing.

  • Kenny

    This schedule doesn’t favor the Suns at all, not only in the back-to-back’s and back-to-back-to-back’s, but also not as many pseudo-easy games against eastern teams like the raptors, detroit, cleveland, etc. Only hope is that the young role players are showing much improvement so we can utilize our depth. The west is never easy.

  • Zak

    The pace of the schedule will be a drain on all the teams. Yeah it’s a pure physical drain on older players but so is a full 82 game season so I don’t think that will be a major problem. I really think that they teams that make major lineup problems will have the biggest problem with the shortened season. Going straight from training camp into the season without any preseason games will make the season itself a learning experience for many teams… not to mention this year’s rookies. And yeah, maybe the Suns may not have as many “pseudo-easy games” this season but they might also get lucky and get more of the games against the strong eastern teams played in PHX instead of away. Who knows until the schedule actually comes out but if the Suns only play Miami, Chicago, Boston, Toronto, Detroit and Cleveland once this season I’d rather have at least two of the three games against Miami, Chicago and Boston played in Phoenix and ALL of the games against Toronto, Detroit and Cleveland played as away games than the opposite. We’ll see once the schedule is out. Who knows just how it will work out now but everyone will have more back-to-backs and back-to-back-to-backs.

  • Scott

    I hope the Suns are looking at FAs Michael Redd and Caron Butler. They need a crunch time scorer, and aside from making a big trade for, say, Iguodala or Gay (and good luck with that), these two players are the only options I see in the free agent market.

    Both players are coming off of injuries and have been a bit injury prone lately. Both players would start at SG for the Suns and are capable of shooting the 3. Both would bring scoring and toughness.

    However, if the Suns can’t successfully trade Pietrus for Udrih, I don’t know who they can get for PG duties. With Brooks gone, I don’t think they can even trade for Mayo any more. If the Suns struggle at PG, this season could wind up even worse than the last, and Suns fans might prefer a scenario where the season never happened. ;)

  • Tony


    I don’t see the Suns taking on Butler’s contract, but he would be nice to have on the Suns.

    In my opinion, the best case scenario for the Suns is simply to completely end the Nash era by trading him for whatever value the team can get for him while sending another anchor contract, such as Warrick’s or Childress’s, in the deal. Follow that by not resigning Hill and basically give up on the season to get a great quality draft pick or two. The Suns team as constructed, plus one veteran player I’m sure Sarver will sign as a bandaid will at best make the Suns a barely mediocre team. In the long run, that’s counterproductive because they will continue ending up with 12-14 lottery picks. The team has hardly any chance of making the playoffs this season so why not tank it all together and really start rebuilding? Makes sense to me.

  • Al

    It’s probable that Nash gets traded if Grant doesn’t resign with Phoenix.

  • Scott

    @Tony -

    Unless I’m mistaken, Butler is an unrestricted FA this year. His name is on the FA list from ESPN. I had been under the impression he’d automatically be re-signed by Dallas, but maybe due to details in the new CBA they won’t do it. I don’t know. The Suns can always express interest, anyway; if nothing else, maybe they can get Cuban to pay more. ;)

    I’m in agreement, though, that I wouldn’t want the Suns to pay too much for Butler. I’m not confident he can stay healthy or handle the team’s needs at the position. I only see him as being a better candidate for the spot than just about everybody else who’s on the FA list. (I think he shot 43% from the perimeter last season.)

    As for trading Nash and not re-signing Hill … first off, I don’t think you can get quality in return for Nash. It’s really hard because of his age. I can’t think of any possible destination for Nash where they can give the Suns something the Suns would want. As far as draft picks go, in order to get good picks the Suns would have to send Nash to Minnesota or some hellish place, and I don’t see that happening. About the only – highly remote! – possibility I can think of is maybe Nash to NJ for D Will, and that’s only because Nash likes NYC and D Will (to the best of my understanding) wants out. Nash is also cheaper than D Will.

    As for Hill, if he wants to play for the Suns I’d take him back, and I’d start him. But it could be that after last season’s debacle, and even less hope for this year (if there is no major trade), that Hill might prefer to test other waters. I could see the Heat, for example, offering him the starting SF spot, with Wade at SG, James at PF, and Bosh at C. That could be an awesome team.

  • Zak

    Butler is a possibility because he is a FA and Dallas is more concerned with resigning Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea who are also FAs. Under the new CBA, I doubt that even Cuban would want to go so far into luxury tax territory to keep all three of them. Since Butler was injured most of the second half of the season and really had no impact in the playoffs, he’ll probably be the odd man out. That certainly doesn’t mean he’s Phoenix bound but I think he’ll be available.