The NBA calendar inches closer and closer to peril. So much so, that union chief Billy Hunter expresses doubt that we'll even have a season.
He could be right. The owners are playing hardball. On the other hand, negotiations rarely go anywhere without being pushed by deadline. The NFL is Exhibit A.
So we'll see. September training camps. November tipoffs. Christmas Day extravaganzas. The All-Star Game. Lots of mileposts to pass before the season gets scrapped.
But talk of the calendar made me rethink the NBA season. If the ghost of Henry Clay somehow emerges to help broker a settlement in October or November, why would we have to have abbreviated basketball? Why couldn't the season just start later and end later?
In fact, why does the NBA season always start in late October/early November? Why do the NBA Finals have to be played in June?
Wouldn't the NBA be better served with a Dec. 1 tipoff and a July finals?
The middle months would not change. We'd be playing basketball in December, January, February, March, April, May and June. With this idea, we're just replacing November with July.
I know, November seems more like hoops than does July. Warm gyms on a cold night feel like Hoosiers. Cool coliseums on a 100-degree night feel like a Taylor Swift concert.
But think of the television benefits. Would the NBA rather go head-to-head with the NFL (November) or baseball (July)? Rather go head-to-head with college football or the British Open?
Sure, more people watch television in November than watch in July. But those eyeballs are glued to football.
Meanwhile, July is a drought month. There's no reason the NBA Finals couldn't capture America's fancy in July; no reason why the playoffs couldn't become a June staple.
Tip off the season in December, start the playoffs in late May. You could still play the All-Star Game in February, to avoid March Madness, but the trading deadline could move to late March, maybe a Tuesday, and the NBA could muscle in on some of the basketball jones that for decades the colleges have confiscated for March.
This is not an Oklahoma thing. Yes, we've got plenty to keep us occupied in November. But the Thunder does fine at the gate, even in football season. I doubt football hurts any franchise at the turnstile.
But television ratings? In November, the NFL is on three nights a week. Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Pro football grips our fractured society like few things can anymore. The NBA will always lose head-to-head with the NFL. Even hard-core pro basketball fans are hard-pressed to skip an NFL game.
The only impediment to a later NBA start is backlash from FIBA, basketball's world governing body. Its championships are played in the summertime. The Olympics, for example, will be played July 28-Aug. 12 next summer. A July Finals would threaten participation in the international competition.
Maybe you'd have to go with an earlier calendar in certain Olympic years. Maybe franchises would like the conflict; sort of an excuse to keep stars from playing all year long.
Either way, the later calendar start is the way to go for the NBA. Starting with this coming season, should a late settlement arrive and prove Billy Hunter wrong.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.