NBA Releases '17-18 Schedule, With A Focus On Player Rest, Health
The NBA released its '17-18 schedule last night, which places a focus on "player rest and health," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. By starting the season one week earlier, the NBA "eliminated scenarios in which teams play four games in five nights." Four seasons ago, there were "70 such scenarios." The NBA "protected 22 'marquee' national TV games in which participating teams will not be involved in a back-to-back or five games in seven nights scenarios and no team will have traveled more than 3,500 miles in the seven days prior to the game." These 22 games "include the five Christmas Day games, all Saturday and Sunday ABC games and the three Martin Luther King Jr. Day games" (USA TODAY, 8/15). In DC, Tim Bontemps writes after "multiple nationally televised games on ABC last season were marred by all-stars sitting out for resting purposes, the NBA made it a priority this season to try to prevent that from happening once again." If players are "healthy, they will be playing." The league is "never going to tell a hurt player that he has to play," but the point was to "eliminate nationally televised games from becoming nonstop conversations about rest." Bontemps: "This change in the schedule should do that" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). ESPN's Tom haberstroh said, "If you look at the nuts and bolts of the schedule, the big thing that stands out to me is none of the ABC games for the Golden State Warriors this year are coming in a back-to-back and that's huge.” Haberstroh: “Last year, four of their five ABC games were in back-to-back sets in this season" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/14).
TO THE VICTORS GO THE SPOILS: In Oakland, Darryl Matsuda notes a "franchise record" 31 of the Warriors' 82 regular-season games will be televised nationally on ESPN, ABC and TNT. That includes the Christmas and Martin Luther King Day games against the Cavaliers (ABC and TNT, respectively) (EAST BAY TIMES, 8/15). The WASHINGTON POST's Bontemps notes the Warriors will have a "whopping 43 games" on national TV when including NBA TV. Everyone will get "plenty of chances to see the league’s most popular team play whether they have NBA League Pass or not" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Joe Vardon notes the Cavaliers have 39 games slated for TNT, ESPN, ABC or NBA TV. However, the Cavs only play "two Saturday games on ABC." This will mark the "third consecutive season the Cavs and Warriors will play each other on both Christmas and MLK Day" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/15).
LONZO EFFECT: In California, Bill Oram notes the Lakers and rookie G Lonzo Ball are "scheduled to appear on national television an astounding 35 times" this season across all four rights holders. The national attention the Lakers are receiving is "significant even by their own standards, and much of it can be attributed to Ball." The team on the original schedule last season was "slated for just 14 such appearances." Only the Warriors (43), Rockets (40), Cavs (39) and Thunder (37) have more national appearances this year (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/15). The league is "betting on the curiosity factor surrounding Lonzo and LaVar Ball to drive a lot of attention to the league’s flagship franchise." Despite the fact the Lakers are "coming off a fourth straight dismal season, they will be one of the most prominent teams on the national television schedule" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). ESPN's Michael Eaves said, "It's more about the league investing in Lonzo Ball to get this attention early, then cover them the next couple of years as they get good. Those fans stay with them. You also have Magic there, so it’s like, ‘Jeanie, you did so well getting this team back to respectability, here's some more games to get you on national TV’” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/14).
ON THE UPSWING: In Boston, Adam Himmelsbach writes the Celtics were "given an extremely high-profile slate," as the team will have 25 of its 82 games televised by ESPN, ABC or TNT. The club last season did "not appear in any of ABC’s national Saturday prime-time games, but this season they will play in two of the eight" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/15). CSNMIDATLANTIC.com's Chase Hughes noted the Wizards last season "had five nationally televised games guaranteed when the initial regular season schedule was released." This season they have 18, a "clear indication their profile as a franchise took a major step" in '16-17. The schedule "doesn't include NBATV games ... and they could have more flexed into national TV slots throughout the season" (CSNMIDATLANTIC.com, 8/14).
THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy writes ESPN, ABC and TNT "took a hard pass on one of the league’s marquee franchises" -- scheduling the Knicks for just eight games next season, including zero after New Year’s Eve. The "implication" being the Knicks will be out of the playoff race "early" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15). The eight games is "down from 22 last season." The team is in "rebuilding mode" after G Derrick Rose signed with the Cavaliers and F Carmelo Anthony "could be out the door" (N.Y. POST, 8/15). ESPN's John Anderson said, "New York City is less interesting than Oklahoma City and the Twin Cities" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/15). Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Michael Cunningham notes the Hawks have zero games on national TV (outside of NBA TV) this season, "another indication of the low expectations surrounding the team" (AJC.com, 8/14).