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A year later, some like Christmas NBA start better

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm •  Published: December 26, 2012

Coaches are still bemoaning the lack of practice time, the frequency of back-to-back games, and other inconveniences that they've had to readjust to this season.

"Of all years I've ever coached, I don't feel like a human being very much. I just feel like a basketball coach," Denver's George Karl said. "That's all I do is watch film, prepare scouting reports, have meetings, go to practice and then travel."

The demands of the schedule and the challenges of navigating it were highlighted when San Antonio sent four top players home before a nationally televised road game in Miami for extra rest, earning a $250,000 fine from an angry Commissioner David Stern.

The Spurs were playing their fourth road game in five nights, which was just as rough as anything that arose out of the lockout schedule.

"I think the schedule of some of these teams is outlandish to me, a lot of it just to get games in," Van Gundy said. "To put teams on national TV on the fourth game in five nights seems counterproductive. I know people will say, 'Oh, the arenas are booked,' and they'll give you many excuses.

"But when you're paying as much as our fans are paying for tickets, to me ... you have to really search out how you can give them the best product, and playing four games in five nights is unfortunately almost ensuring that somebody is not going to be at their best."

More than two weeks ago, Karl was already pondering a brutal holiday schedule that had the Nuggets playing the Clippers in Los Angeles on Christmas night, returning home to host the Lakers the next night, then completing a stretch of four games in five nights with a back-to-back at Dallas and Memphis on Dec. 28 and 29.

"Merry Christmas," he said, hardly sounding jolly.

Playing fewer games is the easy answer, but financially the most unlikely. Neither owners nor players would be interested in giving up a couple hundred games of revenue, which is why Stern quickly brought up the money aspect of it when asked about shortening the schedule during a trip to New Orleans this season.

And going into July would mean completely rearranging the summer schedule, starting with free agency and the Las Vegas summer league.

Plus, the current schedule isn't actually any tougher than normal. The average number of games on back-to-back nights (19.2), and maximum number for any club (22), are at or below their totals in each of the last four full seasons, as are the figures relating to four games in five nights.

But with fewer games last season, marquee matchups seemed to come more frequently, leading to higher TV ratings and nearly unchanged attendance. If the league could figure out how to spread the games out better, the shorter season could be a long-term improvement.

"It was too many games that we played after that in that stretch," Rivers said, "so if there was some way we could figure it out, start off Christmas Day having a tournament or something like the college preseason tournament and start it there, I don't know. But it would be awesome."