Brian WindhorstESPN Senior Writer
With an expanded calendar as part of its new collective bargaining agreement, the NBA has taken the most aggressive measures to date to build rest into its schedule.
In a memo given to teams this week, the league outlined how it hopes to reduce the stresses of travel and give players a chance to recover more than in the past. This is a proactive measure aimed at both player safety and to reduce the number of games in which teams rest healthy players.
After a series of high-profile players didn’t play in major matchups last season, the new schedule protects key national television matchups to make sure teams aren’t playing on back-to-back nights.
Much of this is made possible by extending the season by one week, staring earlier in October. Also, for the first time, the players’ union is a part of the scheduling process to review possible problem areas.
Some of the new improvements include:
• Eliminating stretches of four games in five days and 18 games in 30 days.
• Reduction of five games in seven nights to just 40 instances across (1.3 per team), down from last year when it was on the schedule 90 times (three per team).
• Reduction in number of back-to-backs to 14.9 per team, down from 16.3 per team. In all, 40 back-to-backs have been eliminated from last season.
• Reduction of single-game road trips by 17 percent.
• Reduction in single-game road trips over 2,000 miles by 67 percent; there are only 11 of them on schedule.
• Increase in weekend games from 549 to 568, much of the boost coming on Saturdays. Previously the NBA avoided Saturdays and Sunday afternoons during football season to dodge conflicts.
Teams that have seen versions of their schedules can petition the league for changes. However, the overall themes will stay intact.
The schedule is expected to be finalized this week and portions are expected to be announced soon.