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Shifting the gears on chaotic fears: a new structure for the NBA season

OK, so let’s talk about time off.

So, we all have jobs. Well, in particular, especially before the pandemic started. we’ve all had jobs, and we all have had shifts as said jobs, whether you followed your schedule or not, we all we’re given shifts within a set schedule. Prior to the pandemic I was working as a customer service representative for Nordstrom, I worked for that company about 10 years, so there were many times when I had to, more often than not, really have to pay attention to a set schedule that was given to me, and also, I had a responsibility to let my superiors know not to schedule me on Tuesdays and Saturdays. For the most part, they were like “cool, so we’ll need you on Sundays and Mondays, as well as Friday nights to close. All was right with the world as I had my set days to chill, recharge, attend other obligations and engagements, et cetera.

Now I say that to parallel with the fact that a lot of people feel that they have the right to be upset about NBA players taking time off, and how many people are ready to call the league soft and ‘not what it used to be’ and all that other bullshit, trust me, I get it, I get it. Herein lies the thing that people seem to be missing about what’s currently happening, and sometimes in the workplace you have to adapt. The NBA has essentially had to adapt, and they missed a huge opportunity to do so: with a condensed schedule, no preseason, and having to get back into the swing of things basically a month and a 1/2 after the previous season reached its end, all while STILL dealing with the pandemic. The fact that you have 5 of the top 10 players in basketball collectively playing for 2 teams, it’s no wonder that when these players end up taking time off in order to forever the cases whether its injury or rest, of course the powers that be are going to get frustrated by that, especially with more vaccinations rolling out, more people ending up back in the stands, they’re not seeing the stars they pay to see.

Now this is something that has been in issue for the NBA for quite some time. We call out players getting “special treatment” and don’t readily realize that as these are the highest skilled players at their positions on your team, at some point unfortunate point, they’re going to be overworked. I am not saying that these players shouldn’t be as tough as they can muster. But there’s more than a reason why Lebron and Anthony Davis are taking their sweet time, since AD has never played a full season healthy, and Lebron had now suffered his 3rd injury after turning 34. The Brooklyn Nets they just signed LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin. They were both out last night (the former announcing his retirement just this morning) along with Kevin Durant (resting after playing 27 minutes against the Timberwolves) and James Harden (recovering from a strained right hamstring).

With the NBA currently scrambling, trying to figure out what the fuck to do, one NBA GM said they’re in survival mode because of the mounting injuries – Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets just tore his ACL Monday – and still dealing with the pandemic – Boston’s Jayson Tatum is still recovering from complications of COVID that require an inhaler to help open his lungs. What we aren’t getting, or better yet avoiding, is the fact that this is nothing more than a corporation not adapting. We all understand that this is about money, but the NBA did not do themselves any favors with the condensed schedule, furthermore, the fact that schedule had to start a month and a half after the finals ended because they needed revenue money for Christmas games. CJ McCollum has a fractured foot. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has plantar fasciitis which is an ailment I’ve had before from hyperextension of my feet in the workplace. What’s more, the playoffs begin in a month, May 22 to be exact, as the regular season ends on May 16.

I believe that the NBA missed a huge opportunity here to maximize the timing of players, and I may have a solution. Here’s what could have happened and what I think should happen going forward. We’ve all worked in corporate America before; we’ve all had shifts for our jobs at one point in our individual and collective lives. What should be done at the next National Basketball Players Association meeting should be: let’s make shifts. Let’s make shifts for the NBA. Shifts for our biggest stars. Our biggest stars need to play in the biggest games. Not meaningless games on local television depending on where you live. No, shifts for when contenders are playing on TNT, and ESPN, and ABC, and NBATV. This is about money, isn’t it? Have your stars be available for the money games. It would give an opportunity to more up-and-coming players. It would lower the chances of injuries. And you’d be showing massive consideration to the fans who are craving to see their idols after a year devoid of such.

The easy argument to make is that teams aren’t willing to throw games unless you’re tanking or whatever. I imagine this suggestion would be challenged with the notion of “every game counts,” which is what many are conditioned to believe. I no longer find this notion to be true nor valid, as we’ve clearly seen from recent memory, the weight certain players hold in their respective organizations. Players are nowadays, more often than not, forced by their teams to take games off for rest. Just rest. If every single game in an 82-game season truly mattered, this wouldn’t be the case; there wouldn’t be minute restrictions, no DNPs, nothing of the sort. But in an effort to preserve the league’s most prominent players for the playoffs – which ALL games are nationally televised – these ball clubs that house superstars have adapted the very thing we’ve all been told is wrong with the NBA, and they’re not batting a single eye doing so. The NFL, in contrast, has a 17-game season, sure, but their stars are always playing because it’s week-by-week rather day-by day, and they have more nationally televised games, so each Thursday, Sunday, and Monday, it’s significantly more of an event.

So, make shifts. The NBA should enact shifts for their players. Let me get hypothetical and speculate for a bit. For example, the Brooklyn Nets should say this: “for these next 3 games, Kyrie, KD, Blake, and James, are all off the schedule. On Wednesday night against the Bucks on ESPN, We will have Kyrie, KD, Blake, and James all in the starting lineup.” Sounds crazy? The next three games are against Orlando, Cleveland, and Washington. Easily 3 wins without any of the stars mentioned. After that, you’re on national television against Giannis, and Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday, coaching against Mike Budenholzer. You want KD and Kyrie, and Harden, and Griffin to play THAT game. The LA Lakers: “We’re up against Minnesota and Houston the next three nights, so Lebron and Davis will rest until Sunday against Pheonix, and CP3 and Devin Booker on ABC.”

All the NBA really needs to rectify this disaster that they’re currently enduring is structure within a schedule for their top players. I’m not an NBA GM, nor do I have the desire to be one (although it might not be a bad look later on…), but as a young professional business owner myself, I know when to give my people their shifts so they can operate at optimal levels when I need them the most. Players are going to continue to preserve themselves and the teams that need their services the most will understand that, even those like Harden, who historically would never take a game off even when hobbled, and finally has to due to the significance of his current hamstring injury. Zion Williamson has been on a minutes restriction since he was drafted. The Pelicans understand how valuable he is. With a set schedule in place for these stars, Harden probably doesn’t get injured. Zion wouldn’t need as many restrictions. And this ultimately results in more money for organizations thanks to your stars being available for your biggest games, with most fans in the stands.

Lastly, I’m not advocating for special treatment. I believe, especially based on personal and professional experience combined, that special and reserved treatment is what bars proper chemistry in a work environment. But if the LA Clippers have shown us anything from the past year up to now, is that special players, will be treated differently regardless of the disguise. If you want better chemistry between your stars and role players, make shifts, and have your stars lead the charge in the biggest games, and challenge them to elevate their teammates. Everyone want to be known as an Alpha and take credit for victories, especially superstars, just ask Paul George. No one wants to be the one rumored to be pampered and spoon-fed as they walked in the door, regardless of whether or not the rumor is true. Bad chemistry equals bad business, and bad chemistry almost always results in bad playoff runs, i.e., once again, the Clippers.

It’s not a hot take, and it isn’t rocket science. We all have schedules as working professionals with multiple hands in multiple things at once. And with so many variables that the NBA has been dealing with, the best way to control the chaos of this injury-ridden, pandemic-defying, racial injustice-laden, and compartmentalized season, for lack of better term, is to give it a structure to keep players sane, healthy, and ready for the games that matter. Because, whether we like it or not, every game doesn’t matter. You know what does matter? Money. Fans in the stands. Superstars elevating role players instead of leaving them to their devices against contenders on national television. The money matters, and it always will. Make shifts for the players. It’s all hands on deck once the playoffs begin, anyway.

If Chris Paul sees this blog in between filming his State Farm commercials, I’ll let you all know if I’m offered a position on the board as a result. Fingers crossed.

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