Should the NBA season be shorter? Blake Griffin thinks so


As basketball fans everywhere are wishing that the NBA offseason didn’t have to be so long, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers has expressed his own opinion that the regular season itself shouldn’t be as long. In fact, in a Q&A with CBSSports, that discussed a wide variety of topics among a group of players from Team USA, Griffin suggested that the 82 game season should be significantly cut down.

The idea of a shorter regular season has been discussed by the media and athletes alike for some time now. It could reduce the gruelling effect that the 82 game season has on players by the end of the year, keep them in better shape to perform in the playoffs, and most importantly reduce the chance of injuries that are caused by fatigue and repetitive strain to the body throughout so much playing time.

The NBA has somewhat taken a step in the right direction this year, though. They’ve reduced the amount of back-to-back games and four-games-in-five-day stretches for all teams, which can only be beneficial to players through the long season.

These changes help players, but 82 games is still 82 games. Yet, that’s what we’re all used to. As fans, we’ve been watching 82 games for decades, whilst players and coaches are more than used to preparing for so many games in the summer, and then playing hard for a few nights every single week when the season begins.

However, Blake Griffin’s argument is that reducing the regular season to 66 games would produce a better product. Here’s his answer to CBSSports’ question, “If money were no object, what would the ideal length of the NBA regular season be?”

"“Sixty-six, spread over the same amount of time [as the current 82-game season]. Fatigue and injuries, and better product. If you have less games, less back-to-backs, the product’s better. The fans will appreciate it more. You see those college guys playing so hard, but they play 36 games in the same amount of time we play 82 almost. I just think it would be a better product.”"

A reduction of 16 games would make a very noticeable difference to the fatigue of players. To be precise, Blake Griffin’s suggestion would be a 19.5 percent decrease from the length of the regular season. Specifically, it would help preserve the energy of older veterans most, who typically play less minutes each night. For instance, two of Griffin’s teammates Paul Pierce and Pablo Prigioni, who will both be 38 at the start of the season.

May 9, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) celebrates with Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) after making the game-winning basket against the Atlanta Hawks as time expired in the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 103-101. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Even though it may create a “better product” in terms of players being at their physical best as Griffin said, though, there’s still the issue of whether or not a shorter season takes away the chance for elite teams to fully separate themselves from others. For example, less games could make the already immensely competitive Western Conference even closer when the final playoff standings are determined.

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors expanded on that point with the following response:

"“Within the course of the 82, some people catch their stride, as you saw the season before last year. The Spurs caught their stride in like the last 35-40 games. If you’re not playing 82, do they catch their stride? Are they world champions? Who knows? So it’s kind of hard to judge…And then there’s going to be an unhappy party, because the owners aren’t going to make as much money, which means the players won’t make as much money. So I think it’s a slippery slope. At the end of the day, our league has done great. Is that something to really tinker with? Probably not. Is there really a reason to? Yeah, guys get tired. But are you going to get tired if there’s 65 games? Probably so. I just think that’s a tough subject.”"

Aug 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Team USA forward Kenneth Faried (33) looks to get open during the USA men’s basketball national team minicamp at Mendenhall Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

John Wall of the Washington Wizards said that “I enjoy loving the game, so it doesn’t matter to me. I think [82 games] is cool … if you get more breaks”, whilst Kenneth Faried made it clear he believes this generation of NBA players should follow those that went before them:

"“[Michael] Jordan played 82. They played more preseason games, so they cut the preseason games and training camp down, which is good for us. But at the same time, these guys before us were playing 20-plus years and they were playing 82 and still being All-Stars and still having big names — Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and those guys. So guys who’ve done it before us, they’ve already paved the way, so we just have to follow in their footsteps as much as we can.”"

The few players that CBSSports spoke to obviously have differing opinions, and as they suggested, there are numerous factors to consider. From the financial side, to the issue of changing a season structure that has always been in place, there’s plenty to think about.

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On top of both of those issues, would most players be willing to take a pay cut to compensate for the fact that their workload for the regular season has been reduced by 19.5 percent? That would most likely differ greatly around the league, especially when many players are probably going to be split on the decision to even shorten the season in the first place.

Would 16 fewer games reduce fatigue and produce a better product as Blake Griffin said? Maybe. But when the NBA has already been such a great league for so many decades, should we really try and tamper with it in such a significant way?

For now, the answer to that question is probably no. But for a forward thinking commissioner like Adam Silver, it’s unlikely that making a change to the structure of the season won’t be considered in the near future.

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