Does the NBA have a load management downside? NBA Fact or Fiction

Each week throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, we’ll take a deeper dive into a few of the league’s largest storylines in an try to find out whether or not the traits are based mostly extra in truth or fiction shifting ahead.

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The NBA’s grueling schedule comes at a value to gamers and followers

The NBA has by no means been richer with high-end expertise than it’s now, and the product could be a outstanding one when the greatest gamers are sharing the courtroom collectively. The downside is, you by no means know who you will see throughout the common season, and the gamble for followers making an attempt to attend these video games is costlier than ever.

Advancements in sports activities science have helped gamers get pleasure from longer careers. Load management and longer rehabilitation instances are employed as safeguards towards accidents and re-injury, respectively. Unfortunately, we can not remove both completely, so the common season has develop into a high-wire act of managing present accidents and making an attempt to forestall future ones. What will get misplaced in between is the fan’s gambit, even when the final purpose is to make sure the roster is as wholesome as doable getting into the playoffs in its pursuit of a championship.

Take the Los Angeles Clippers, for instance. They are one in every of six groups in the Western Conference with a profitable document, at the moment in place for a assured playoff spot, homeowners of the league’s sixth-best title odds, in response to BetMGM. They are a contender in principle and a MASH unit in apply. Eighteen months faraway from ACL surgical procedure, Kawhi Leonard has missed extra video games than he has performed this season, principally managing that proper knee. Paul George has missed 13 video games to soreness in his proper knee and hamstring.

The Clippers have performed six nationally televised video games this season. Leonard missed the first 4, and George sat the center two. When they managed to get them each on the flooring for a uncommon two-game slate filled with stars on this yr’s Thursday debut of NBA on TNT, they could as nicely have been shelved. Leonard rested every sport surrounding it, and George has not performed since. Both performed fewer than 20 minutes dealing with a blowout loss in what was speculated to be a measuring-stick sport towards Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets.

This isn’t any fault of the Clippers. Injuries occur, and enjoying by means of them runs the threat of shedding a $42 million participant for the the rest of this season or probably longer, crippling a workforce’s title probabilities this season and past. They have to guard their investments, however so, too, ought to the followers. Additional preventive and rehabilitative absences, on prime of the precise accidents, too typically make ticket purchases a shedding gamble.

I purchased two tickets to this week’s sport between the New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics as Christmas presents for relations. The most cost-effective worth for a pair of nosebleed seats on the secondary market was $226. That didn’t embody parking, meals, drinks or souvenirs. It provides up rapidly. And neither Zion Williamson nor Brandon Ingram — the main sights on the opposition — performed in a sport that was all however over by the starting of the fourth quarter. It was a watered-down product for a gassed-up worth.

This is just not an exception. It is turning into the rule. Families of 4 theoretically spent a mean of $444 to attend an NBA sport final season, in response to Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index, which balances the main value of 4 non-premium tickets, parking, 4 sizzling canine, two draft beers and a couple sodas

That is a 44% improve from 2012-13 and a 53% hike from when David Aldridge broached this topic for ESPN twenty years in the past. The common ticket worth solely moved from $47 to $56 from 2006-07 to 2015-16, but it surely reportedly exceeded $100 for the first time final season, regardless of a post-pandemic dip in attendance.

That is if you’re fortunate. Most obtainable tickets are caught in the vortex of a secondary market that may ship costs hovering by greater than 400%. Tickets for all however seven groups value greater than twice the authentic worth upon resale, in response to SeatGeek, pushing that common value for a household of 4 nearer to $1,000 a evening. That is greater than twice what it prices the similar household on the similar secondary market inside a decade in the past.

Unless you look ahead to the newest harm report earlier than making your buy and loading the youngsters into the automotive for a journey to the area, you might be additionally crossing your fingers that you simply really see the product for which you paid.

Los Angeles Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George watch from the bench throughout the second half towards the Sacramento Kings in December. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

By my depend, of the 70 video games aired on ABC, ESPN or TNT this season, at the least one font-line participant didn’t play in 58 of them. Once you excuse long-term harm absences for gamers like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Cade Cunningham, Chet Holmgren, Khris Middleton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Robert Williams III and the Ball brothers, amongst others, it’s nonetheless anybody’s guess which gamers present up.

Also 18 months faraway from ACL surgical procedure, Jamal Murray rested for a nationwide TV look on the second sport of the Nuggets’ season (and the first evening of a back-to-back). Williamson has missed all three of the Pelicans’ nationally televised video games this season with bruises to his bottom and foot. The TNT doubleheader on Nov. 22 featured the Philadelphia 76ers sans Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, adopted by a battle between LeBron James and Chris Paul through which neither really participated.

Again, it’s in a workforce’s greatest curiosity to nurse gamers coming back from accidents or susceptible to them. The pandemic additionally supplied motive to take extra precautions with signs of sickness. Devin Booker pressed to return for the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day, after which re-aggravated a groin harm 4 minutes into the sport. He has not performed since, lacking two extra high-visibility video games, together with this week’s loss to the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, which Paul and Deandre Ayton additionally missed with day-to-day accidents.

And these are the video games the league wants its greatest gamers to satiate the TV networks. Your common NBA sport is extra of a crapshoot. On each journeys to New Orleans this season, the Warriors rested Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. If you might be a season-ticket holder in Oklahoma City, you have already missed alternatives to see Williamson, Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Jimmy Butler and James Harden this season. It could be no coincidence that attendance at Thunder video games has plummeted. Fans in Utah and Cleveland have seen comparable skeleton crews in entrance of sellout crowds.

The NBA has taken steps to ease the scheduling load on gamers, limiting the variety of back-to-backs and rising the variety of instances groups play consecutive highway video games towards the similar opponent. A cursory evaluate suggests these steps have not led to a decline in load management. In reality, it appears enjoying two straight highway video games in the similar metropolis has given groups an excuse to relaxation their stars for one in every of them. Of the 28 cases through which a highway workforce has performed two straight video games in the similar metropolis, one or extra star-level gamers missed a sport on 21 events. It additionally will increase the odds of a participant lacking his workforce’s solely two highway video games in that metropolis, like when COVID-19 value Jokic each of Denver’s appearances in Dallas this season.

So, what can the NBA do if it can not manipulate the present schedule to restrict accidents and appease the want for preventive relaxation or prolonged restoration? It might trim the 82-game schedule, rising the time between video games, the chance that nobody sits with lingering soreness and the stakes each evening. The NBA is a outstanding product on the uncommon event throughout the common season when two contenders meet with a full contingency of top-flight expertise, or when gamers undergo minor bumps and bruises in the playoffs.

Only, the NBA is not going to lower video games for the similar motive it is not going to lower ticket costs. The cash is simply too good, even it means asking the common household to gamble $1,000 on the off likelihood they see a completed product.

Determination: Fact. The NBA’s grueling schedule comes at a value to gamers and followers.

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Ben Rohrbach is a senior NBA author for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or observe him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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