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

Each week throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, we are going to 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 primarily based extra in truth or fiction transferring ahead.

[Last time on Fact or Fiction: Have the Los Angeles Lakers failed LeBron James?]

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

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

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

Take the Los Angeles Clippers, for instance. They are one in all six groups in the Western Conference with a successful document, presently in place for a assured playoff spot, house owners of the league’s sixth-best title odds, based on BetMGM. They are a contender in idea 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, largely 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 ground for a uncommon two-game slate filled with stars on this 12 months’s Thursday debut of the NBA on TNT, they could as properly 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 alleged to be a measuring-stick sport towards Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets.

This is not any fault of the Clippers. Injuries occur, and enjoying via them runs the danger of shedding a $42 million participant for the the rest of this season or probably longer, crippling a workforce’s title possibilities this season and past. They have to guard their investments, however so, too, ought to the followers. Additional preventive and rehabilitative absences, on high of 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 the Boston Celtics as Christmas presents for relations. The least expensive value for a pair of nosebleed seats on the secondary market was $226. That didn’t embrace 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 value.

This will not be an exception. It is changing into the rule. Families of 4 theoretically spent a mean of $444 to attend an NBA sport final season, based on Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index, which balances the major price 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 20 years in the past. The common ticket value 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 out there 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 price greater than twice the authentic value upon resale, based on SeatGeek, pushing that common price for a household of 4 nearer to $1,000 a night time. That is greater than twice what it price the similar household on the similar secondary market inside a decade in the past.

Unless you watch for the newest harm report earlier than making your buy and loading the youngsters into the automotive for a journey to the enviornment, you’re additionally crossing your fingers that you just 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 rely, of the 70 video games aired on ABC, ESPN or TNT this season, no less than 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 night time of a back-to-back). Williamson has missed all three of the Pelicans’ nationally televised video games this season with bruises to his again 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 during which neither really participated.

Again, it’s in a workforce’s greatest curiosity to nurse gamers getting back from accidents or liable to them. The pandemic additionally supplied purpose 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 further 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’re 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 may 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 occasions groups play consecutive highway video games towards the similar opponent. A cursory evaluation suggests these steps have not led to a decline in load management. In truth, it appears that evidently enjoying two straight highway video games in the similar metropolis has given groups an excuse to relaxation their stars for one in all them. Of the 28 situations during 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 price 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 probability that nobody sits with lingering soreness and the stakes each night time. 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 reduce video games for the similar purpose it is not going to reduce ticket costs. The cash is just too good, even it means asking the common household to gamble $1,000 on the off probability they see a completed product.

Determination: Fact. The NBA’s grueling schedule comes at a price 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 comply with him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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