New format affects NBA season like never before
We are now two weeks into the new NBA season and with a myriad of changes to this year’s format, what kind of impact is being made on the games being played?
First, the length of the season was cut to 70 games, down from the usual 82.
Reaching the 70-game mark was crucial for the league to fulfill its television contract that exists with local markets.
The financial security of the owners and players hinged upon this threshold being met.
Elements of last year’s bubble playoffs will carry over as well.
The regular season will conclude with a play-in tournament between the teams seeded 7-10 in each conference for the last two spots, perhaps becoming a permanent feature down the line.
The All-Star break falls roughly a month later than usual, starting March 5 and ending March 10.
However, there will not be an All-Star game this year, which is a real disappointment given the success of last year’s new fourth quarter rules.
The trade deadline tentatively falls later that month on the 25th, which is a date to circle if your team is in the Houston James Harden-sweepstakes.
While that is the extent of the concrete changes to this season, the Association also made a concerted effort to minimize teams’ traveling, with much fewer teams playing in back-to-back games.
Road trips were adjusted so that teams visit opposing arenas in a logical succession.
One addition that has received positive feedback so far are the home and home series that teams now have.
In MLB-fashion, the NBA scheduled pairs of teams to play back-to-back games with the same opponent more often.
This way, after that point in the schedule, said location is no longer on their season itinerary. These schedule adjustments were meant to accommodate the burden that the pandemic has imposed on teams as well as assuage load management.
With fewer games and players’ availability always subject to change, there’s a higher sense of urgency across the league to start out strong.
Not to mention, the abbreviated training camp means that teams are still figuring out who they are as the season unfolds.
A new playoff element exists in the home and home series that make those games more compelling. Sweeping a series gives teams a decisive mental edge over another, along with earning the tiebreaker that could heavily influence seeding implications.
We’ve seen lockout shortened seasons before, but this iteration of the NBA season is unparalleled.
It will take longer than normal for fans to cast judgement on their favorite squads; and before we know it, the postseason will be upon us again.
In sports you can generally bet on the sure thing, but this year those sure things are few and far between.