Another 9:30 p.m. (or later) start awaits Oklahomans enjoying the frenzy over the Thunder-Lakers series. So far in this series, we’ve had starts of 9:40 p.m., 8:40 p.m., 8:40 p.m.
People are staying up to watch — the Thunder television ratings are exponentially higher than they’ve ever been — but it makes for bleary eyes in Oklahoma work places. And get used to it.
The Thunder is headed for a lot of years in the Western Conference playoffs, and the NBA isn’t planning to change the scheduling format.
I asked commissioner David Stern last week if the league was concerned about the late tip times in the Central Time Zone or if the NBA planned to do anything about it.
The answer was a simple no.
Stern made two points: 1. The ratings INCREASE as the game goes later. 2. The NBA has fans in California, too.
Almost all Western Conference playoff games start at 8:30 p.m. (or a few a minutes later) or 9:30 p.m. Central time. If the game is played in the Pacific Time Zone, it’s usually 7:30 local, which makes for 9:30 in Oklahoma. If it’s back in the middle of the country, it’s 8:30 local. At least the NBA doesn’t start any games later than 8:45 or so local time.
I asked Stern why couldn’t all Western Conference games start at 8:30 p.m. Central, which would be 9:30 Eastern time and 6:30 in California. He basically said the TV networks have been great partners and the league cooperates. You can’t argue with money.
The problem is, some games are ending ridiculously late. Thunder-Lakers Game 2 ended at 12:33 a.m. Oklahoma time, which is 1:33 a.m. on the East Coast. You think there are some NBA fans in New York who wanted to see if Kevin Durant could make that 3-pointer with eight seconds left and the Thunder down two? If so, they had to stay up literally until the middle of the night.
The only salvation for Thunder fans is Sunday afternoon games. Game 7, if it gets that far, almost surely would be Sunday afternoon back in LA. Even that would cut into the sleep time of Oklahoma City fans. No Sunday afternoon nap.