Suns schedule release out soon – New focus on health

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 5: Devin Booker
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 5: Devin Booker /

Gone are the days when back-to-backs were the norm. When four games in five nights meant that for a week fans could basically plan on watching games nearly every day. And when players said “it’s a great day for a ballgame; let’s play two!”

Okay, so maybe that’s more of a baseball phrase, but the fact remains that the further the NBA stretches out the season, and the more rest the players players will get throughout the year, the more the basketball season will feel like the NFL: one game on, a bunch of days off.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, an NBA memo has released new information regarding the style of the upcoming 2017-18 NBA schedule, and the basic intricacies of how often and when the teams will play and travel.

The most interesting and most noticeable change that fans will recognize immediately is the ending of all four games in five nights stretches. While teams will still average 14.9 back-to-backs this season (down from 16.3 last season which was even down significantly from the season before), there will be far more rest built in between games that will (hopefully) prevent players from resting and missing games unnecessarily.

Both of those adjustments are also in conjunction with the new opening of the season which is about eight days earlier than last year, opening the 82 slate out farther into October than it has in decades.

Of course, all of this comes with the intention of seriously decreasing the number of DNPs, especially for the star players on road trips when fans may not realize that a player was resting that evening until they literally didn’t hear the player’s names during the opening introductions.

For the Phoenix Suns, no individual season has started before October 25 since 1980-81 when they opened the season on October 10. Although the season at that time was shifted earlier and ended at the end of March.

NBA teams regularly used to play three games in three nights (the only time that has been scheduled in the past two decades has been during the two lockout shortened seasons of 1998-99 and 2011-12). In the very early seasons, the Suns would also regularly play four games in four nights, always with at least one road trip mixed in to a Pacific timezone opponent (which not only included California teams in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but even as far north as Portland as well.)

In January 1970, the Suns even played nine games in eleven nights which included a five games in five nights stretch, built around a six game road trip:

1/8 – @CHICAGO
1/12 – NY @SALT LAKE

Imagine that stretch for those players back then when the salaries were pocket change compared to what they make now, and the travel and hotel accommodations were less than first class.

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(By the way, the Suns went 4-5 on that stretch on their way to a 39-43 season and a seven-game first round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe some rest along the way could have helped Phoenix overcome the L.A. in the playoffs?)

According to Windhorst every team has already seen their schedules and are in a period of time where they can request specific changes before it is finalized. At that point the schedule will be released and fans can starting marking up their calendars.

The official release usually happens in August and the 2016-17 schedule was released on August 11. Hopefully that means that we are only a few days away from knowing when we’ll get to see Devin Booker and the gang play games that count again – not to mention when they’ll be wearing their new uniforms.