In light of the recent middle finger to the league courtesy of Spurs coach Greg Popovich, for creating clear scheduling favoritism to the largest media markets / destination cities, I got to thinking about the great impact that scheduling can play in tipping the balance of power towards the desired financial best interest of the league hierarchy.
The Denver Nuggets, having now played just 5 home games to 12 on the road, and after a brief respite for a one game home stand against Toronto, are about to embark on yet another 5 game eastern swing. Nuggets color commentator and recidivist taco perve, Scott Hastings has always stated that the first game back from a road trip is the "Worst game of a trip because the players are just getting settled in and comfortable". Fortunately for them, they won't have the time to unpack their bags and kick up their dogs in this one game stop in the unfamiliar confines of Denver, before jetting off to Atlanta.
Conversely, the Fakers team they played last night, one of the three teams Commissioner Bonaparte truly cares about, (the others being Flop City, the Nyets and the Knuckleboogers for obvious "basketball reasons") have played only 5 times on the "road", one of which coming in the friendly confines of Staples Center against the Floppers. Every one of their pre-season games were played at the staples center. This doesn't sound like a big deal but it maximizes valuable practice opportunity when you are not faced with time consuming and mentally draining travel. Their first 5 games were on the West coast, 4 of them home games.
What about previous seasons you ask? Well last season they first ventured out of the pacific time zone in game 8 in Denver, after 7 games in California, 6 at Staples center. As soon as they were done in Denver, they returned to the the pacific time zone for 5 more games. In 2010 their first 9 games were all also in their home time zone, including 6 at home. In 2009, 17 of their first 21 games were home games. Come on Commissioner, at least try to feign subtlety if you have it in you.
Is it a coincidence that this occurred in a season where the Fake Show would predictably exhibit growing pains while trying to assimilate the once great, but geriatric and fragile Steve Nash and the recently, surgically repaired back of Dwight Howard?
Surely Stern's thinking was that by the time they have things sussed out, and the tough portion of the Fakers schedule came into play, the team would be able to hold their own, if not win the majority of these games, so it was important for him to step in and insure that they didn't dig themselves too deep of a hole in the early going. Got to milk that cash cow for all it's worth (as David Stern undoubtedly has written in a post it note pasted to his mirror).
All told, the Fakers have exited the Pacific time zone a grand total of three games out of 16 and guess what? That isn't going to change much the rest of the season or for seasons to come for that matter. How is this possible you ask? There are two primary reasons.
The one I've alluded to already is that it is more profitable to the league to have great teams in the leagues two largest media markets. If you think Stern is above tinkering with the schedule to maintain or regain this standard, you need look no further than his vetoing the Hornets / Fakers / Rockets trade that would have depleted the Fakers roster, in favor of one that made the Floppers a contender.
The less obvious reason is the less noticed, but more sinister for it's lack of dialogue, issue of time zones. Do you think it is lost on league hierarchy that the mountain time zone has an unfair scheduling disadvantage in terms of road games to every other team in the league? Utah and Denver do not need to be viable contenders in order to make the league money, certainly not the way L.A. and N.Y. do.
Every single season, the Fakers are allowed to play 45 games in their home arena, and 53 of their 82 games in their own time zone. The Jazz and Nuggets? Try 41 at home and 43 in their time zone. This happens every single year without change. Does this not strike anyone else as unfair?
Some might say that a road game is a road game no matter where it is played, but that is simply not true. It isn't the on-court exertion as much as the mental fatigue involved in going from home to arena to bus to plane to bus to hotel to bus to arena, and changing time zones, where you either gain or lose an hour of sleep only serves to exacerbate the lethargy or fatigue inherent in jet lag.
While it is true that not all of the Fakers 53, Pacific time zone games come consecutively (despite it certainly seeming that way sometimes) so there is obviously going to be travel and time zone headfuckery intermingled within their schedule as well, the same is true for all teams, so the pacific time zone / two teams in one arena advantage still holds true.
The Fakers, while my least favorite team, are not the only that draw my ire, so it is only fair that I point out that the entire eastern conference enjoys similar advantages in terms of time zones as there is not a single team in any division who is outside of any teams respecitve timezone. Clearly, the Northwest Division gets the shaft, specifically Utah and Denver since while their are three separate time zones represented within the division, there are plenty of non division opponents that Portland O.K.C. and Minnesota play within their time zone.
While it would be silly of me to expect any sort of solution to this clearly unjust component of the scheduling process, I do offer a solution that would make the schedule slightly more palatable for neglected Rocky Mountain hoops fanatics, and more importantly, the players. One that maintains a balanced schedule for all, and while not completely moving the needle, at least shows that in a league with draft lotteries conducted behind closed doors, teams getting fined $250k for managing their rosters as they deem best for the team and fair trades negated by league heavy handedness, that the commissioner is at least aware of the issue and that over 5 million people in the Utah / Colorado portion of our time zone, are not second class citizens to the majestic likes of storied perennial championship contenders like, (tee-hee) the L.A. Clippers, the Brooklyn Nets and the N.Y. Knicks.
The Fakers and Flop City, shall henceforth play 40 games at home rather than 41 (their extra road game alternating by season in either Utah or Denver), while the Jazz and Nuggets shall play 42 instead of 41, for "basketball reasons".