The NBA this week announced a new schedule format for its finals, which will allow for two days off between any games for which there is travel. It adds a little extra length to an already brutally long season, with Game 7 of the finals slated (if necessary) for June 19.
I thought the new schedule might mean we are headed, someday, for an NBA Finals game after the summer solstice. Alas, we apparently already had that: most recently on June 23, 2005, Game 7 of Spurs vs. Pistons.
An interesting nugget contained within ESPN.com’s story about the revised finals schedule was a reminder that the NBA tweaked its regular-season schedule, too, to reduce the number of back-to-back games and the number of times teams have to play four games in five nights.
There are only 27 four-game-in-five-night stretches for all teams this season. The Wolves, it should be noted, are saddled with two of them (one in November, one in March). The average number of sets of back-to-back games is down on average from 20 to 18 leaguewide. Here, the Wolves get a break and have only 14.
All of it, though, is reminder of just how long and imperfect the NBA season is — and, really, that the NHL season is even worse when it comes to length and construction.
The NHL season begins this year on Oct. 7, while the NBA starts nearly three weeks later, on Oct. 27. The NHL regular season ends April 9, while the NBA ends just four days later on April 13. So the NHL season is more than two weeks longer than the NBA season (and the playoffs ended at almost the exact same time last year as well, June 15 for the NHL, June 16 for the NBA, with both title series going six games).
But even though the NHL regular season is more than two weeks longer than the NBA season, this year the Wild has more sets of back-to-back games (15) than the Wolves (14). The Wild doesn’t have any four-in-five stretches, but it does have four back-to-back sets in a 20-day span in January.
Both of these seasons are just … too … long. You could say the same about baseball, but at least MLB finishes its playoffs in one month instead of two.
Of the traditional four “major” sports leagues in the U.S., only the NFL really has it figured out. The season, including playoffs, will take less than five months. The only real scheduling hurdle for teams is a Thursday night game, and the pain is spread equally.
Kudos to the NBA for working to make its schedule a little more manageable for players, but it’s still a problem when it feels like the next season begins right after the last one ends.