Behind The Scenes: How The Truncated NBA Schedule Came Together
When the NBA announced it reached a handshake deal with the players union to end the lockout on Nov. 25, Senior VP/Scheduling & Game Operations Matt Winick and his team had to scramble to create a 66-game schedule with the six months remaining in the regular season. Winick worked with a number of execs, including the league’s broadcast department, to hammer out 33 home dates per team according to arena availability. Winick took time to break down the process and the discussions that took place during this abbreviated timetable. The following is his first-hand account of how the schedule came together.
HURRY UP AND WAIT: Normally right after the All-Star Game we start accumulating arena dates for the following year. (This season) we completed the 82-game regular schedule and it was announced in July. And in October we asked buildings to keep us apprised to their open arena dates going forward. From the time the lockout was settled, I think we had a schedule in less than 10 days.
SAVE THE DATE: The arena availability is obviously the first concern, but we have some situations where we’re trying to maximize for our fans the games that people see. So there are some television elements that are involved in the regular schedule. We want the fans to see the best possible games, best possible TV attractions and a lot of that depends on results of the playoffs and even some player movement after the season, which we couldn’t wait for in this case.
TIME NOT ON THEIR SIDE: It was just more difficult because the arenas are heavily booked and have been heavily booked. Just squeezing in the number of dates necessary to play 33 home games per team was the biggest challenge.
SPEEDY GONZALEZ: I thought we worked about as fast as we could work. I’m not even sure it took 10 days. It might have been closer to a week than 10 days. ... I was on a lot of early trains from Long Island to New York. 6:13am, that became my standard train.
ROSIE THE ROBOT: The computer puts the dates into the schedule and prevents you from doing things that would be prohibited. Such as someone playing someone five times or it would check to make sure that every team played every other team. It does not schedule the games per se. It’s a computer-aided, generated, man-made schedule. It’s a special program developed for the NBA.
THE STAKE HOLDERS: The teams just send us their available dates. They have no input into the schedule whatsoever. … (The networks) have to provide us the dates on which they can televise. And that’s their biggest input is to what dates are available for national television games.
FACING THE FACTS: We knew when the dates were determined that teams were going to average four games a week from the start of the schedule to the end of the schedule. So obviously there are going to be weeks when they play less than four games and there’ll be weeks when they play more than four games.