For the first time in three years, the NBA is enjoying a full, normal offseason. The Finals ended in June, like it’s supposed to, there was no month-long Olympics immediately after, it’s already been over two and a half months since the Phoenix Suns last played a game, and training camps don’t start for another... checks watch... seven weeks?!? Seriously? Sheesh.
Anyhoo, the offseason is in full stasis. Nothing real has happened for weeks (sorry, Duane and Ish). And nothing real is expected to happen for weeks to come. Days come and go with the most exciting news being ‘Kent Bazemore back to Kings on minimum deal’.
Usually, the NBA breaks up the doldrums with their annual schedule release in the second week of August. Media get to break news on opening night games (2 games, 4 teams), opening week national TV games (half dozen games over 3 nights), Christmas Day games (5 games, 10 teams) and more. We fans get to mark our calendars for the trade deadline, All-Star Weekend, and even playoffs opening night.
Remember how excited we were to find out the Western Conference Champ Phoenix Suns would be one of the first 8 teams playing last season (night two of opening week), and finally get one of those Christmas Day games?
Half the league is feeling that same sense of anticipation.
Today is August 8. This is the week of schedule releases.
In 2018, the schedule was released on August 10. In 2019, it was August 12. So it stands to reason that this is the week we get find out if the Suns will be playing on Christmas again, and if their opponent that day will be the Mavericks or the Golden State Warriors.
Hold yer horses.
This year, the schedule apparently won’t come out until at least a week later.
Have heard I was wrong, and it's *likely* going to be next week (week of 15th). Surprised, considering various timing precedents, and sometimes the league has been known to move it up, but right now, expecting it next week. https://t.co/11JGiGg2C5— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) August 7, 2022
August 18 or thereabouts is what I’ve been hearing for a bit now. https://t.co/RU3LMvNCBz— (@FlyByKnite) August 6, 2022
That’s a week later than usual. While you might say ‘who cares’, well the schedule is quite important to a lot of people in the business of basketball. Arenas are being booked out for non-basketball events, for one thing. Six months worth of road trips are being planned. And no, they don’t get the schedule well in advance of everyone else. Maybe a day or so, but that’s it.
Sure, there’s early glimpses. But things can change dramatically between early glimpses and the final version. Teams are only seeing early glimpses in order to say ‘no that won’t work for us for this immovable-object reason’ or ‘yeah that’s fine’.
Why would the NBA put off finalizing the schedule by a whole week this year?
Speculation time, activated!
Maybe because we are ALL still waiting and hoping for some kind of resolution on what jersey a bunch of All-Stars will be wearing next season.
All of Kevin Durant (trade demand), Donovan Mitchell (trade request) and LeBron James (not signed any extension yet), Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and a number of other recent or current All-Stars are, to varying degrees, in limbo.
All of them are All-Stars, and all of them would move the needle on who the networks would show on those national games next season — especially on opening week and Christmas Day.
Think ESPN/ABC wants to show the Nets if they’ve traded away Kevin Durant? They’d rather show the Knicks... but only if the Knicks acquired Donovan Mitchell, that is. And they might put the Pelicans on Christmas Day if they got Kevin Durant alongside Zion Williamson, but otherwise no one’s gonna book the Pels on big national TV night given Zion’s injury history.
And what about the Lakers? Lakers get ratings no matter what, for sure. But the scheduling would be a farce if somehow Russell Westbrook is the most polarizing face in Lakers uniform on TNT’s opening night (Anthony Davis just doesn’t move the ratings needle like Russ), yet ratings would go through the roof if LeBron re-commits and gets Kyrie Irving on the team next to him.
The possibilities are wild. That’s why the NBA is holding off as long as they can before finalizing the NBA schedule, especially opening week and Christmas Day.
What’s a week going to do?
Can there really be any difference between finalizing the schedule now versus a week from now? NBA teams can’t wait forever to plan their next 12 months in their arenas, so why even bother with a one-week delay?
Maybe they know something we don’t. Maybe the NBA is, behind the scenes, quietly nudging the Nets (Durant), Jazz (Mitchell) and Lakers (et al.) to make the biggest deals now, rather than later.
Or maybe the schedule-makers had a software glitch and had to delay the production schedule while they fixed it.
We don’t know, but it’s fun to speculate.