A wounded Derrick Rose hobbles out to center court before a first round 2012 NBA Playoffs matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers. He isn’t there to try to soldier through another injury. He’s in sweats, and that ACL is torn. Derrick Rose is a mascot now and his primary role for the Chicago Bulls consists of delivering the game ball and mowing down nachos in a luxury box.
Out in Los Angeles, Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard is taking meetings regarding his future. The Magic aren’t done yet, but that seems a formality since Howard is also out for the year with injury. For the New York Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire‘s bandaged hand makes him useless — more so than normal.
That last one has more to do with unbridled stupidity than a compacted schedule, but the injuries to Howard and Rose stand on their own merit. The 66-game schedule the lockout shortened season has produced is seriously weighing on the NBA Playoffs.
Stars are hobbled, beaten, and even broken from the rigors of playing three games in three nights, or four in five. The off nights and strip club filled jubilation they’ve always relied upon to rest and recuperate were fewer and farther between. There was money to be made and the league and the NBPA practically tripped over each other trying to grab it. Now, they’re desperately paying the price.
An 82-game season that starts in November is long and arduous, but it’s manageable and it often builds suspensefully towards the postseason. Somehow an accelerated 66-game schedule seemed even longer, and unlike it’s 82-game cousin, it has dead-ended into an inferior postseason riddled with injured and fatigued athletes.
Round after round of seven-game playoffs are supposed to reward the most talented of teams, but this year they appear to be more like punishment. Instead, the teams that were most self-conscious in preserving their stars will be rewarded.
Credit to Gregg Popovich, he has a team filled with aging veterans and he approached this unusual schedule with stressed importance on saving the legs of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, but would the San Antonio Spurs have survived and been the same sort of team in a normal schedule?
What’s done is done, and the NBA will survive through this scheduling snafu, and I’m sure we’ll still see some entertaining basketball in these 2012 NBA Playoffs. But when we look back on this season, it’ll be obvious that trying to squeeze in 66 games was a perilous decision. We could have easily survived with 50, and been much better off because of it.
And what did those extra 16 games really accomplish? Where did that money go?
NBA commissioner David Stern probably put a few more dollars into the ongoing globalization of the game, trying to capitalize on Jeremy Lin‘s popularity in Asian markets. NBPA executive director Billy Hunter probably is using the additional funding to support another member of his family with a posh job and a six-figure salary.
Fans are relegated to watching Orlando sans Howard, which essentially mounts to a fat guy everyone calls a baby and Jameer Nelson. In Chicago, the offense now runs in large stretches through the guy who created Star Wars and the Hitchcockian world of Joakim Noah jump shots. And this is all because we needed to play 16 extra games, grease a few pockets and support the rampant nepotism of the NBPA.
But the men in suits who spent most of November slinging crap at each other from the opposite ends of a conference table will now sing in unison about how this was for the fans. Is anyone buying that now?
Not this guy.