Earlier this month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver went into detail on changes he'd like to see for next season's schedule. "One of the things we're hoping to address, even for next season, is to come close as we can to eliminating four games out of five nights," Silver said. "We're also very focused on the back-to-backs. There once again it's a function of numbers of days in the schedule and number of games we want to play. But I think we can make a dramatic impact there."
It's common when a team loses on the second night of back-to-back games to assign blame a team being tired because they're playing on consecutive nights, even though one study has shown that the fatigue explanation is a myth. It's also a convenient scapegoat whenever a player -- such as Derrick Rose -- suffers a catastrophic injury, whether or not fatigue has anything to do with the ailment.
But despite all that, the elimination of back-to-backs and four-in-fives should be explored because it can have a positive impact on quality of play in other ways, such as teams being able to practice and study film more in between games which in theory should improve execution. It will also help avoid situations such as Gregg Popovich resting the majority of his lineup on national television games, which earned the Spurs a $250,000 fine from the league for "disservice to the league and our fans."
Here are a few things to consider when thinking about a potential change to the NBA schedule, and feedback from players and coaches.
The impact of starting and ending the season at the same point
If Silver wants to create space and pace in the schedule, one thing he will have to consider is whether to shorten training camp and preseason so the season can start earlier, or to allow for the playoffs to run deeper into the end of June.
His response when posed this question at All-Star Weekend: "If we're truly going to take a fresh look at this, we have to examine what the appropriate time is to begin the season and when we should end it. Could we shorten it up a little bit if we didn't have quite the same number of preseason games, and then add those days in the regular season, so we would gain a little bit at the beginning? And the question is towards the end of this season, can we push a little bit further in June closer to the Draft? … I've heard proposals about them moving The Finals past the Fourth of July."
As Silver said, "literally every day matters" when you're trying to space out the schedule. Consider this: the Lakers and Clippers play in the same arena (Staples Center) and there are only so many available dates to fill out the 82 combined home games for both teams. Also, the Clippers -- because of the Grammys -- are one of several teams who go on annual road trips. The Spurs go on an annual road trip every February because of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. The Bulls have an annual Circus trip. Regardless of changes to the schedule, these teams will have to be on the road during that stretch, and it might not make sense to give them less road games during that stretch. Having more days to play with will help. Again, figuring out the schedule is a tough task, and there are many permutations to consider when there are 30 teams and only so much availability in each arena.
Do coaches see the positive in this change?
A few weeks ago, after the Raptors returned from a road heavy schedule, head coach Dwane Casey talked extensively about being able to regroup and having a stretch in the schedule where the team is able to get in a few practices and regroup. More space in the schedule would allow for that.
I asked Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr for his thoughts about the proposed schedule changes. Per NBA.com, in 11 games without rest this season, the Warriors are 9-2, and scoring 113.2 points per game and shooting 44.7 percent. Their success has even caught the eye of people in other sports, most recently Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who said his team has been studying the ways Golden State has been able to keep their players fresh.
"I don't think back-to-backs are bad," Kerr said. "But four in five nights in four different cities, six games in nine nights, there's a glaring difference in your energy level and your efficiency when you go through those stretches. Back-to-backs are actually fine, but when you have a bunch of games bunched together over ten days, it's tough. It would be nice to see those eliminated."
Before the All-Star Break, the Warriors played a stretch of four games in five nights, starting at Sacramento, then home to Dallas the next night, an off day, then back-to-back road games at Atlanta and New York. They went 3-1, and won the second night in both nights twice.
"We just went through that stretch," Kerr said, referring to the four-in-five. "We didn't have a single practice. We had a few shootarounds and days off to rest. The execution definitely suffered."
What about the players?
After losing the second half of a back-to-back in Toronto, Blake Griffin was asked whether playing two consecutive nights has an impact on the players. He didn't think so, saying that the narrative of players being fatigued on back-to-backs was something the casual fan might think is true.
But opinions differ when you ask other players. Kyle Korver simple said, "Yes, I feel very tired." During the season, Korver likes to work on his shooting by taking 150 shots at a time to get his technique down and into a rhythm. He'll do that several times per day. As someone in his 30s and part of an offense that is constantly moving off the ball, you can imagine running around can take its toll.
"Back-to-backs are difficult [too]," Korver continued. "But you don't want to make excuses either. I'm not in for shortening the season. I like playing  games. But if they were spaced out a little bit, it would be nice." For the record, Korver has not seen a decline in his numbers when he's played on zero days rest this season.
Korver's teammate Paul Millsap had his own take. "It depends on the individual person's body," Millsap said. "You have to consider how far in the season it is too. Maybe further in the season, they can back off [on back-to-backs and four-in-fives] a little bit, because our bodies do get tired. I don't think people realize the energy and physicality it takes to play a full game. It's tough."
Of course, players and coaches and everyone's health is important. There are also television partners who will need their games on specific nights, and will of course prefer teams who are bigger draws, which shrinks the potential flexibility of the schedule.
At this point, all this is still specualtive, as there are no plans in the works to shorten the season. But it's interesting to think about how a more balanced and spread out schedule may benefit the league. Right now, certain nights (Wednesday, Friday) have more games than others (Thursday, Sunday), and you have to wonder whether a more evenly spread out schedule will have a positive impact across the board.
For now, there's no rest for the weary.