Each week during the 2022-23 NBA season, we’ll take a deeper look at some of the league’s biggest happenings in an effort to determine if the trends are based more on fact or fantasy moving forward.
[Last time on Fact or Fiction: Have the Los Angeles Lakers failed LeBron James?]
The grueling NBA schedule comes at the expense of players and fans
The NBA has never been richer with cutting-edge talent than it is now, and the product can be great when the best players share the court together. The problem is, you never know who you’ll see during the regular season, and the gamble faced by fans trying to attend these games is more expensive than ever.
Advances in sports science have helped players enjoy longer careers. Load management and longer rehabilitation times are used as safeguards against injury and re-injury, respectively. Unfortunately, we can’t completely eliminate that, so the regular season has become a higher level business to manage existing injuries and try to prevent future ones. What gets lost between them is the fan maneuvering, even if the ultimate goal is to ensure the roster is as healthy as possible when entering the playoffs in pursuit of the championship.
Take the Los Angeles Clippers, for example. They are one of six teams in the Western Conference with a winning record, are currently in a qualifying position for a guaranteed playoff spot, and are the sixth-best league title odds, according to BetMGM. They are a competitor in theory and a MASH unit in practice. Eighteen months after ACL surgery, Kawhi Leonard has missed more games than he has this season, most of them turning in that right knee. Paul George missed 13 games due to soreness in his right knee and hamstring.
The Clippers have played six nationally televised games this season. Leonard missed the top four, and George sat in the middle. When they managed to get both of them on the floor for a rare two-game star-studded slate on the first Thursday of this year’s NBA on TNT, they may have been shelved. Leonard rested every game around, and George hasn’t played since. Both played less than 20 minutes in the face of a heavy loss in what was supposed to be a measuring stick match against Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets.
This is not the clippers fault. Injuries happen, and playing through them risks losing a $42 million player for the remainder of this season or possibly longer, hindering a team’s title chances this season and beyond. They must protect their investment, but they must also protect the masses. Additional preventive and rehabilitative absences, in addition to actual injuries, often make buying tickets a losing gamble.
I bought two tickets to this week’s game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Boston Celtics as Christmas gifts for the family. the Cheaper The price for a pair of nosebleed seats on the secondary market was $226. This did not include parking, food, drinks or souvenirs. adds quickly. Neither Zion Williamson nor Brandon Ingram – the opponent’s main attraction – played in a game that ended at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It was a diluted product with a gassing price.
This is no exception. It has become the norm. Families of four theoretically spent an average of $444 to attend an NBA game last season, according to Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index, which balances the upfront cost of four non-premium tickets, parking, four hot dogs, and two beers. Draft and a couple. Soft drinks.
This is a 44% increase from 2012-13, and a 53% increase since David Aldridge brought up this topic for ESPN two decades ago. The average ticket price only went from $47 to $56 from 2006-07 to 2015-16, but it reportedly topped $100 for the first time last season, even though attendance slumped after the pandemic.
That is if you are lucky. Most of the tickets available fall into a secondary market vortex that can drive up prices by more than 400%. Tickets for all but seven teams cost more than double the original price at resale, according to SeatGeek, pushing the average cost for a family of four to nearly $1,000 a night. That’s more than twice what the same family has cost in the same secondary market in a decade.
Unless you wait for the latest injury report before making the purchase and loading the kids in the car for the trip to the paddock, you’re also crossing your fingers that you see the product you paid for.
By my count, of the 70 games broadcast on ABC, ESPN or TNT this season, at least one player hasn’t played in 58 of them. Once players like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony Towns, Kid Cunningham, Chet Holmgren, Chris Middleton, Garren Jackson Jr., Robert Williams III, the Paul brothers, and others are exempt, it’s still anyone’s guess which players will show up.
Also 18 months after ACL surgery, Jamal Murray was rested for a national television appearance in the Nuggets’ second game of the season (and the first night of back-to-back games). Williamson missed the Pelicans’ three televised games this season due to bruising on his butt and feet. A TNT doubleheader came out on November 22 at the Philadelphia 76ers sans Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, followed by a fight between LeBron James and Chris Paul that neither of them were actually involved.
Again, it is in the best interest of the team to care for players returning from or sustaining injuries. The pandemic has also provided reason to be extra careful with symptoms of the disease. Devin Booker pressed back to the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day, then re-injured his groin four minutes into the game. He hasn’t played since, missing two more high-definition games, including this week’s loss to the champion Golden State Warriors, which Paul and DeAndre Ayton also missed due to day-to-day injuries.
And these are the games the league needs for its best players to satiate the television networks. Your average NBA game is more of a crapshoot. On both trips to New Orleans this season, the Warriors have rested Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green And Andrew Wiggins. If you’re an Oklahoma City season ticket holder, you’ve already missed out on opportunities to see Williamson, Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Jimmy Butler, and James Harden this season. It is no coincidence that attendance at the Thunder Games has fallen so sharply. Fans in Utah and Cleveland watched similar skeleton crews in front of sold out crowds.
The NBA has taken steps to reduce the scheduling burden on players, limiting the number of consecutive road games and increasing the number of times teams play back-to-back road games against the same opponent. A quick review indicates that these steps did not result in a decrease in pregnancy management. In fact, playing two consecutive road games in the same city seems to have given teams an excuse to rest their superstars for one. Of the 28 cases in which a road team played two consecutive games in the same city, one or more all-star players lost a game on 21 occasions. It also increases the odds of a player missing his team’s only two road games in that city, as it did when COVID-19 cost Jokic both Denver and Dallas appearances this season.
So, what can the NBA do if it can’t game the current schedule to reduce injuries and appease the need for preventative rest or extended recovery? It can reduce an 82-game schedule, increase the time between games, and the likelihood that no one will sit with prolonged soreness and stakes every night. The NBA is a great product on the rare occasion during the regular season when two contenders meet a full contingent of top-tier talent, or when players pick up minor bumps and bruises in the playoffs.
Only, the NBA won’t cut games for the same reason that it won’t lower ticket prices. The money is very good, even if it means asking the average family to gamble $1,000 if they see a finished product.
resolve: fact. The grueling NBA schedule comes at the expense of players and fans.
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Ben Rohrbach is a senior NBA writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have advice? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach