The NBA's Playoff Pace Kills Drama
Please wake me when the NBA moves on to the next round of the playoffs. At the postseason pace commissioner David Stern and his television deals have created, this year's best-of-seven series each seem to take a month to finish.
OK, that may be a stretch, but admit it, over the years, the NBA playoffs have lost some luster since days off within series were extended.
Instead of having teams play every other day with extra rest between Games 4 and 5, the NBA has adopted its own approach where sometimes a team can go on a short vacation between playoff games.
The Los Angeles Lakers defeated Utah on Tuesday to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven second round series. But instead of getting back to action on Thursday, the teams will not play again until Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
Now come on. There are so many things wrong with this picture.
First, it just doesn't make sense to force the world's best athletes to wait four days to play. Lakers coach Phil Jackson gave his team an off day on Wednesday and could probably do the same on Thursday and still have his players ready for Game 3.
That's not what the playoffs should be about it. The postseason should be about attrition where the league's best teams advance because of a mixture of talent, toughness and togetherness.
If the NBA needs a model to look at, just check out hockey's Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins both began second-round playoff series last Saturday on May 1.
The Celtics split the first two games against Cleveland and will play Game 3 on Friday at TD Garden. The Bruins won the first three games in their matchup against Philadelphia, including a road win over the Flyers on Wednesday, and can close out the series with a win in Game 4 Friday at the Wachovia Center.
Two playoff series that started at the same time but moving at two totally different paces. Why?
Money, of course.
Just go back to Stern's response to Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, who last month criticized the league for its drawn out playoff schedule.
"You can imagine my feeling when I see Stan Van Gundy, the league administrator, lecturing us on how we should schedule games," Stern said sarcastically. "Thank you very much as we try to nurture $800 million a year of TV money so we can distribute it to the teams so they can pay their salaries."
Enough said. But that still doesn't make it right. Those few extra dollars are costing fans real playoff drama. Remember those old playoff matchups when time off between games seemed more like rest between rounds of a championship fight instead of today's version that has the feel of a scripted American reality television series?
To support Stern's position, the extra rest between games generally helps veteran players who are needed to boost television ratings. Plain simple math makes it better to have a healthy Kobe Bryant or Deron Williams in the lineup than to have them on the bench watching.
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed this out to reporters on Wednesday. In the Celtics' series against the Cavaliers, injured players like Boston's Kevin Garnett (foot) and Kendrick Perkins (knee) and the Cavaliers' LeBron James (elbow) are benefiting from the extra days off.
"Kevin hurt his [foot] pretty good," Rivers said. "Honestly, today if we had a game he wouldn't play. We just have to wait. I doubt if he practices tomorrow, and then we'll see. Perk, I don't know if he'll practice tomorrow either. Perk's happened before [Game 2] in shootaround in the morning, and Kevin's happened during the game. So the rest is good for everybody -- good for Cleveland to get healthy, and hopefully good for us."
Maybe so, but longtime NBA fans can't help miss the days when the New York Knicks' Willis Reed limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden and sparked his team to a decisive playoff victory over the Lakers.
That date was May 8, 1970. Forty-years ago. It was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. On May 8, 2010, the Lakers will be playing Game 3 of their second-round Western Conference series.
Man, have times changed.