The NBA has had a schedule problem for many seasons, but this year, it finally addressed it.
In recent years, the NBA schedule was full of teams with obscenely large travel schedules, back-to-back games and three games in four nights. It became too much and teams began resting their players during some of these road trips and back-to-backs.
What did that create? Well, take for example the March 11, 2017, game between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, which was broadcast in primetime on ABC. Fans were looking forward to seeing stars on each team go head-to-head, but they were disappointed as Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala all sat for the Warriors.
On top of those four exclusions, Kevin Durant was already out due to injury and Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard sat out as well. This made the game a battle of the benches with a national audience tuned in.
It was a bad look for ABC, who saw all the excitement going in evaporate before tipoff. Most of all, it was embarrassing for the NBA, as the league saw a marquee matchup lose its sizzle.
The NBA decided to do something about it this season by instituting a new scheduling format that will decrease the number of back-to-backs and increase rest. The season will start earlier than normal with opening night coming on Oct. 17 as opposed to the typical late-October start.
Other assurances are being made as well, with eliminations of congested stretches like four games in five nights or 18 games in 30 days. The league has also cut 40 back-to-backs from its schedule, all in a concerted effort to give the players more rest and have the league’s stars on the floor each night.
Given how hot a topic of conversation this has been in recent years, the NBA taking action is a welcome sign to players, coaches and most importantly fans, who no longer have to worry about missing out on their favorite players when they attend a game.
However, not everyone is a fan of this new change, namely Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who spoke out in opposition to the new scheduling.
“These poor babies can’t play back-to-back games,” Barkley said in an athletic forum at Southern Methodist University. “They’re making $20-, $30-, $40 million a year. But we want to make it convenient for them. At $40 million a year, we can’t stress ‘em out.”
Barkley drew upon his 16-year career, in which back-to-backs and arduous travel schedules were commonplace.
“We flew commercial and we were able to play back-to-back, back-to-back,” Barkley said. “I’ve [talked] with older guys who took trains to play three days in a row. The NBA caved in.”
Did the NBA really cave in? If anything, this is something the league had to do, as fans and those in the league alike were growing more frustrated every time a player rested. The league smartened up and adapted to modern-day reality.
Say what you want about the players being “babies” or “soft” or any other adjective that comes to mind, but this had to be done. Barkley’s statement comes off as more of an “old man yelling at a cloud” type of response to changing times, rather than a legitimate take.
Times change, people change and in this case, the league had to change as well. The NBA is not what it was 20 or 30 years ago when Barkley was still suiting up. This league is not even what it was 10 years ago.
The NBA had to do something. It saw the toll the packed schedule took and it acted. Adam Silver should be applauded for finally putting this topic to rest.
Matt Ambrose is a journalism major from Exeter, N.H. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mambrose97.