The league is trying different ways to save wear and tear on players without losing any revenue. One such idea is to shorten the game. Yet, there is more bad than good with that idea.
Members of the Phoenix Suns staff, at varying levels of the organization, are skeptical about the NBA's experiment with a 44-minute game. The NBA has sanctioned the Brooklyn Nets - Boston Celtics preseason game next week to run 11-minute quarters for a total of 44 minutes.
"I don't like the 44 minute game," coach Jeff Hornacek said before the San Antonio game. "I know that was discussed at the [coaches] meetings. I don't why you would shorten it. You have rosters up to 15 players, you dress thirteen of them, you have plenty of guys to play."
Indeed. One former Suns player said recently that "minutes are a player's most important commodity".
Players like Gerald Green and Isaiah Thomas, who combined for 102 starts last season, project to come off the bench for the Phoenix Suns this season. They already must face the likelihood of getting fewer minutes this season than last (28.4 and 34.7, respectively). If you shorten the game, the guys who will get fewer minutes are more likely the bench players, not the stars.
"The rest of the game is going to be more important," Hornacek said. "You're probably going to lean on the stars even more now because you don't have the time to make it up."
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby echoed the same sentiment in an exclusive interview with Bright Side.
"I think if you have fewer minutes," he said, "The star players may play a greater percentage of those minutes because there's more at stake. I'm not sure it's the right solution."
A shorter game could squeeze out the middle class of the NBA.
Why would the NBA even consider shortening the game in the first place? The total dollars spent on salaries is predetermined in the CBA, so fewer minutes won't diminish those expenses.
The NBA, for their part, has not put a lot of messaging into the reasoning for the experiment. They mention improving the flow of the game and being forward-thinking, but the Suns' Babby applied a different possible benefit.
"Part of what we need to be focusing in is the health of the players," Babby said. "Whether the season is too long, or the games are too long, we've got to try to find ways to keep players healthier. And to that extent I support it. What I like about it is the willingness of the league to experiment and get ahead of the issues."
Babby expounded on the need for player health.
"For us, a related point is getting our players enough rest over the summer," he said. "We were vigilant in making sure the guys, young and old, were taking time off and that we were not working them too hard and they were not working themselves too hard.
"They have to get better over the summer, and we put an emphasis on player development, but they have to get some rest because the long term health of the players is the most important thing."
There is still no clear reasoning provided for the shorter game. Players don't like it. Coaches don't like it. And even front office folks are skeptical.
But if the desire of the players is to shorten the season to maintain their health, you can bet the owners would be much more amenable to shorter games than fewer games. Fewer games means fewer dollars.
"Let's be candid about it," Babby told Bright Side. "All of it's about the revenues that are generated from the games and whether or not there would have to be a diminution of the revenues in order to shorten the season.
"That's the balance. We now have 41 home games. If we had 30 we'd have less opportunities to create revenue and that's what drives everything in the business in terms of player salaries and everything else. Theoretically it's a good idea, but in practicality smarter people than me would have to figure out the math."
Ahh, the salaries. Fewer games means less revenues. Less revenues means lower salaries. Ergo, players won't ultimately push for fewer games if it impacts their bank accounts. Who would?
In fact, I'll float my own idea out there that would result in the owners and players making even more money rather than less. By cutting out 4 minutes per game, to get closer to college and international game length, a team would save three games worth of wear and tear on the players' bodies by the end of the season.
So why not lengthen the season by those three games, to an 85-game season? That way, players would end of with the same total minutes over the course of the season and the league could increase revenues at the same time.
It's all about the money, right?