For at least a decade now, NBA teams have taken precautionary measures with veteran players, giving them a few “rest nights” each season. The result is uninjured marquee players sitting out, disappointing fans and displeasing league executives.
The topic is discussed on a regular basis, but there has been no remedy.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes he has a solution: A shorter schedule.
“What makes the most sense is cutting back to maybe a 72-game schedule,” he said Saturday, before tipoff against the Spurs in San Antonio. “Take 10 games off and get more time to rest in between games. I think you'll get buy-in from the teams to play their guys more often.”
The current 82-game schedule has been in place since 1967, when the NBA had 12 teams, all of which flew commercial flights. Rest nights were exceedingly rare, and many starters averaged more than 40 minutes per game.
Times have changed, Kerr explained, using Warriors superstar Stephen Curry – who on four occasions this season did not play the second night of a back-to-back set – as an example.
“People pay a lot of money to watch the stars play, but we also know a lot more now about the body,” he said. “We have a lot more information about how to prevent injuries. Every team has got a team of medical people advising us to sit our stars out for 10 games a year.
“I know that, especially as Steph gets older, the thought of even playing him 82 games, it doesn’t make sense because it just wears him down. And by the time the playoffs start, if he’s worn down, what are we doing? Why are we doing this in the first place?”
It’s a logical move, one league commissioner Adam Silver, addressed this week.
“It’s something, as we sit down and we’re looking at new media deals and looking at a new collective bargaining agreement, we will be studying,” he said on Wednesday. “From my discussions with players, they recognize it’s an issue, too. The style of the game has changed in terms of the impact on their bodies.
“I think we’ve got to constantly assess and look at a marketplace going forward and say, what’s the best way to present our product and over how long a season?”
Silver has in the past conceded that “there’s nothing magical about 82 games,” implying that he’s open to the possibility of a reduced schedule. The biggest roadblock is the revenue loss that comes with each team playing 10 fewer games. Both the players and team governors have resisted the notion of such a void.
Kerr believes that gap can be bridged.
“It would require everybody to understand the financial ramifications,” he said. “But you could argue that if it’s a better product, you’re going to get better media-rights deals, and a 72-game season might result in even more money for the cap anyway. Less from gate receipts, but maybe more from media rights. And in the end, everybody could win.
“But that’s just me guessing. I don’t really have any data to back that up. But that would be my preference.”
RELATED: Kerr cherishes possible final game against Pop
Most players are willing to suit up for fewer games. Most players are reluctant to accept a pay cut of about 12 percent. Owners would give a thumbs down to any loss of revenue.
Only if there were a way to overcome that, such as larger media-rights contracts, are both parties likely to agree to such a deal.
And if it ends the era of “load management,” fans also would be on board.