There’s a problem with the NBA season that everyone knows about: it’s too long. Eight two games in fewer than seven months—then the playoffs begin! By mid-season, games become a grind for players and for fans. Injuries accumulate. Bodies and minds wear down. It’s no wonder that many (most?) players selected for it would rather skip the All Star game and rest their bones and brains. Yes, some teams, like Portland, are jockeying for playoff position, but others are stuck near the bottom with little prospect of digging out even if they improve. Or a few, like the L*kers, are a lock at the top. A lot of hope and excitement has died by midseason. It’s no wonder that as the season grinds on more and more people start talking about trades and fewer and fewer about actual games. Fans also burn out.
One solution is to reduce total games played. A sixty game season would mean more time between each game, perhaps eliminating back-to-backs; it would make each game more important; it would produce better ball & fewer injuries; it would shorten the mid-season slump. And it’s a pipe dream. It’s a pipe dream because eliminating games eliminates money and playing 60 games would cut revenue by at least 25%.
But maybe there’s another solution: cut the season into two. In essence, this would turn an 82-game season into two 41-game seasons. Playoffs would commence at the end of 82 games, like now, but how teams would be seeded would change. Except for tie-breaking, total (82-game) won-loss records would play no part. Instead, the place that each team finished in the conference in each season would be averaged to determine its place in the playoffs. So a team that finished 5th in the conference in the fall season, but finished first in the spring season, would be seeded 3rd. Additionally, I like the rule that every team that finished first or second in each of the seasons would be guaranteed a playoff spot. This would reward those teams that showed dramatic improvement from one season to the next, but admittedly would also ensure a spot for teams that shone in the spring season then flopped in the second.
Creating two separate seasons might make the second 41 games of the season more meaningful and competitive for more teams. It might provide more hope to bad or unlucky first season teams and discourage good teams that built a large lead at the season break from coasting in the second half.
Whether such a system would significantly reorder playoff standings compared to the present system is beyond the time and talent I have to figure out. The idea is simple but the ramifications are complex. What do you think?