Howard Beck of The New York Times has reported what many of us have whispered and assumed for weeks.
The 2011-12 NBA schedule no longer means a thing.
The NBA is expected to continue canceling regular season games in two-week chunks, with the next round of cuts possibly coming today. But it’s all a formality. The schedule, as it was presented in July, was never going to see the light of day once the edict came down on Oct. 10 to wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season. There just was no way it could have.
The reason is competitive balance.As I explained to my wife days ago, the Thunder had eight games canceled in the first round of cuts. Only two of those were home games. That meant Oklahoma City had 39 home games and 35 road games remaining from its original 82-game schedule. That simply would not have been fair. Not to a team that might have had six home games wiped out back on Oct. 10. That team would have then had to play 35 home games and 39 road games.
Now, let’s say the Thunder made the playoffs by a narrow margin over a Western Conference rival that played four fewer home games. Team B would have had a legitimate beef. Team B could have cried foul and said they, too, would have made the postseason with four more home games. Make sense?
But before the NBA even would have had to consider all of that, the league would have had a crippling issue with the total number of games. You see, not all teams lost eight games in the first two weeks. Some might have lost five; some six; some seven. The NBA could never think a season would maintain its credibility with teams playing an uneven number of games, let alone an uneven number of road/home games?
That’s why you can toss the neat little schedule you printed out and hung on your fridge or cubicle wall in the closest receptacle. It’s irrelevant. And so is each subsequent announcement that the league is slashing more time from this year’s schedule. We hardly needed confirmation of that being the case. But it apparently has arrived.
Whenever the lockout is resolved, the N.B.A. will build a new schedule from scratch, using all arena dates that are still reserved, according to people who are aware of the league’s plans. N.B.A. officials declined to discuss the issue Tuesday.
Thus, the decision to formally announce cancellations is an academic exercise, and perhaps a bit of political theater. The announcements serve as a warning shot to the league’s 430-plus players, a reminder that they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars.”
That’s all these announcements are at this point. Posturing. The league is suffering a public relations hit with each formal announcement. But it’s also sending a message to its players. And you can believe most of them know full well how much they make a game — and have no problem multiplying that figure by five, six, seven or eight.
What’s more is the league has all but conceded it will forfeit the schedule’s December portion, as evidenced by its handling of arena dates in two cities. From the same report, Beck shares this interesting tidbit.
When the N.B.A. canceled the first 100 games of the season earlier this month, it immediately released its 29 arenas from any obligations for those dates. For now, the arenas are still bound to honor the printed schedule from Nov. 15 and beyond. There are two notable exceptions. A Lakers game at Staples Center against the Toronto Raptors, scheduled for Dec. 13, has been dropped in favor of a Jay-Z and Kanye West concert, The Orange County Register reported last week. The change was made with the N.B.A.’s approval and with assurances that the Lakers-Raptors game could be accommodated on another night. The league clarified in a statement that the change was not an indication that December games had been canceled, but rather that the printed schedule was defunct.
“With the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season, the N.B.A. schedule would have to be reworked and certain dates — including Dec. 13 for a Lakers game at Staples Center — would not be part of any revised schedule,” said the statement, which was published by The Register. A Bulls game against the San Antonio Spurs, scheduled for Nov. 30 at the United Center, also has been bumped for the Jay-Z tour. So far, no other arenas have received permission to release N.B.A. dates beyond Nov. 14.
Beck goes on to report that a new schedule will look completely different than the one that was published in July. And it could come with casualties to the customary interconference format, meaning teams from opposing conferences might not met twice in the season for a home and home.
If the league is indeed willing and ready to sacrifice interconference games, the writing is on the wall that the ship has sailed on any chance of saving an 82-game season. For all intents and purposes, we’re basically staring down the barrel of a 50-game campaign, the second since ’99.
That’s why when my wife asked recently if she could delete the entire Thunder schedule that she had spent hours punching into our MobileMe calendars, my answer was short and simple.
“Yes, Sweetie. Yes, you can.”