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Condensed NBA Season Is Bad For The League

Jacob Freedman |
February 11, 2012 | 12:03 p.m. PST

Staff Writer


Stoudemire has struggled without rest. (Wikimedia Commons)
Stoudemire has struggled without rest. (Wikimedia Commons)
Carmelo Anthony. Dwyane Wade. Manu Ginobili. Zach Randolph. Chauncey Billups.

That's the list of some of the NBA stars that have gone down with significant injuriess so this shortened season. The most recent injury, Billups' season-ending torn Achilles tendon, is only a snapshot of the injury bug that has bitten the NBA especially hard this year. The list doesn't even include the list of superstars that have missed games, like Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, and Amar’e Stoudemire.

Tragically for the NBA and its fans, this spree of injuries will continue and most likely get worse, considering the NBA season is not even at its half-way point. This is no normal season, thanks to the NBA lockout and its effects.

This past Thanksgiving was about more than just football for sports fans. That's because during the holiday, the news emerged that there would be an NBA season, set to start on Christmas Day.

Of course, the season that would not last the regular 82 games. Instead, the league and the owners decided on a 66-game schedule to played over the course of 123 days, making teams play at a clip of more than one game every two days, compared to the season before which had 82 games spread over 173 days.

While the difference might seem trivial, this season’s schedule has given teams brutal stretches of play. Every team has at least one back-to-back-to-back set of games along with other tough scheduling, such as the nine games in 12 nights that the Atlanta Hawks had to endure to start their season.

Frankly, as painful as this is to admit, this lockout-affected season should have been even shorter. Rather than the current 66 games, a proposed 50-game plan should have been the course of action. That way, stretches like the Clippers’ six games in nine nights (the last of which ended Billups' season and possibly career) could have been avoided.

Sadly, money has been and will continue to be the crucial factor in the decision-making process of top-level professional sports. NBA owners wanted the profit that comes with eight extra home games, and now the coaches, players, and fans are bearing the brunt of teams often turning in performances not up to normal NBA standards.

For evidence as to how the condensed season has derailed teams, look no further than the New York Knicks.

There is no doubt the Knicks have caught lightning in a bottle with the breakout play of new starting point guard Jeremy Lin. Still, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni would not have had to give Lin such extensive minutes if not for Anthony’s groin injury and Stoudemire’s noticeable regression in performance from last season.

Instead of being able to rest Stoudemire a bit more this season, coach D’Antoni instead has played the power forward only two minutes less, not taking into case how much more often teams are playing this season. So it comes as no surprise that a fatigued Stoudemire is averaging seven fewer points per game than last season along with a career-worst .457 shooting percentage.

Meanwhile, an obviously struggling Anthony is having his worst season as a pro so far, shooting under .400 from the field and having his lowest scoring average since his second season in the NBA.

So while the Knicks’ ongoing health issues are only made worse by the adjusted schedule, the shorter rests between games are affecting veteran teams as well. Teams stacked with core players whose best playing days are behind them, such as the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics, have struggled out the gate.

After their slow starts, the Celtics have gone 11-4 and the Mavericks 15-7. But NBA crunch time--the time where teams begin feeling constant fatigue as the season wears on--will be especially difficult for the older teams. Their core players, namely Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett for the Celtics and Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Jason Terry of the Mavericks, will frankly have less energy in the tank come playoffs than the young stars of the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder or Chicago Bulls.

As the season continues, the effects of such a patched-together labor deal, one designed to save the season, will continue to harm the league it set out to save.

Some of these effects are teams having significantly fewer non-game days in which to practice and teams on road trips being in almost constant travel, a process that wears both physically and mentally on the body.

The NBA this season has been as sloppy and injury-plagued as any in recent memory. Here is hoping the trends seen this season disappear as soon as the NBA returns to its normal schedule next fall.


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