NBA, players association ‘discussing reducing regular season, playoff shake-up’

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Credit Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association is reportedly in talks with the NBA Players Association and its broadcast partners about overhauling the entire league schedule, which would include a shorter regular season, a new post-season format, and a mid-season tournament.

As first reported by ESPN, it is hoped that a vote on the proposals will be made at the league’s board of governors meeting in April 2020, with the aim of introducing some, or possibly, all of the initiatives during the 2021-22 campaign, the league’s 75th anniversary.

The changes being discussed include:

  • Reducing the regular season from 82 games to a minimum of 78 games, amid concerns about load management and injuries from players.
  • Reseeding the four conference finalists based on regular-season record, potentially creating an NBA Finals between two teams from the same conference.
  • A mid-season tournament – something NBA commissioner Adam Silver has pushed for a number of years – to maintain team revenues and fan interest.
  • Tweaking the postseason, which could give teams who finish as low as 10th in the Eastern and Western Conferences the chance to reach the play-offs via play-in games.

According to ESPN, “there’s been no real pushback” from players over these proposed plans, with NBA’s domestic broadcast partners ESPN and Turner Sports also involved in the talks. It is also possible that the in-season tournament, which is likely to take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, could be sold as a separate broadcast package.

The proposed changes come amid sinking TV ratings so far this season. As reported by Sports Media Watch, nine games have already failed to reach one million viewers, compared to 19 all of last season. Meanwhile, ratings for eight of 10 games on TNT have declined from last year.

There are number of reasons for this dip, most notably star players like LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard being rested for key games for load management reasons, and injuries to superstars such as Zion Williamson, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving.

The Golden State Warriors – who have been the NBA finals each of the last five seasons, winning three titles, en route to being a major viewership driver for the league – this season have also sunk to the worst record in the league with the injuries to Curry and Thompson and departure of Durant to the Brooklyn Nets.

Silver said prior to the season’s start that he was “bullish” about the ratings prospects for the league, particularly on the local level. But that was before the sweep of notable player injuries.