During the NBA’s regular season, there is so much talk about the travel and how it wears on the body, back-to-backs with an opponent in both cities, simultaneous game preparations for multiple opponents by the assistant coaches and about how players just have to play through injuries. Then the playoffs roll around.
Travel to one site and stake out for as long as a week. Back-to-backs? Only if you count playing the same team over and over. Throw out coaches working on their preparations and make it a team effort - all the coaches (and scouts) game prepping for the same opponent (whom you may play seven times in a row)! Play a game and have at least a day, usually more, to rest and recover.
Who benefits from such a change? Older, experienced, talented teams, that’s who. Think I’m referring to what’s going on in this year’s playoffs? Well, yeah, somewhat. I mean this isn’t the History Channel blog. But, . . . think back, if you’re as old as I am, to the 1969 NBA championship when the aging Boston Celtics and their player-coach Bill Russell limped to the end of the regular season with a 48-34. That mark barely got them into the tourney, but they caught fire (or was it stopped traveling and got healthy) and won Big Russ’ 11th title in 13 seasons - and then promptly retired.
Fast forward, or in the case of the New York Knicks, crawl forward to 1973 when they finished 11 games behind division-leading Boston, yet beat the Celts in a seven-game series, then went on to take care of the Lakers in five. Both the ‘69 Celtics and the ‘73 Knicks were old (in basketball years), experienced and talented teams. They also wound up as champions.
So for all those Cavaliers fans who bemoan the fact that they had the best record but the older teams reaped the benefits of the “system,” just hold onto LeBron for a few more years and your club will be the beneficiaries of this format because:
“All that’s old becomes new again.”