The biggest question buzzing around at the beginning of the 2010-2011 is will either Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers or the trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat break the NBA’s regular season win total of 72.
Let’s cut to the chase. The answer is no. And, here’s why.
You can blame Charles Barkley and TNT Thursday Night NBA basketball for the dagger to the heart on any hope for a 73-win season. And, I'm not just saying this because both teams lost Thursday night, the Heat to Boston and the Lakers to Denver.
No, the critical killer observation as to why the 72 win record is safe comes from none other than Phil Jackson, current coach of the LA Lakers and also the coach of the recording setting 72 win 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls.
For years, Jackson has said that Chicago was the perfect location for a team to set the record because travel is shortened being in the center of the country. Jackson’s theory goes that LA, being on the west coast, and Miami, being on the east, have to travel too far for games.
The rigors of the road take its toll, even on the best of teams. Conventional wisdom agrees with Jackson but this year, it seems even the Lakers, off to a blazing 8-1 start or the Heat, at 5-4, could still do it. At least that’s what everyone is talking about, drinking that Kool-Aid.
And, it’s true, both teams (not counting how well Boston is playing) seem like they are on a mission to meet in the NBA Finals and are playing at high level to start of this season. But that is right now.
Jackson says luck is also involved to make a run at the win record. A team literally has to stay healthy throughout the season and in all key positions. A single bite of the injury bug to either the Lakers or the Heat and any run at the record is over.
But, recently, Phil Jackson has raised the bar on what a team attempting a shot at the record has to deal with. There is a new wrinkle to the NBA schedule that his Michael Jordan led Bulls didn’t have to face.
The NBA and TNT created in the last few years TNT Thursday night NBA basketball. This is the NBA’s attempt at Monday Night football, making for must see TV with popular teams and match-ups playing in marquee games, in a double-header format on Thursday night. The fans gain but the teams lose.
Jackson was quoted, in his girlfriend Jeanie Buss’ new book, Laker Girl, saying that teams playing on Thursday night are at a massive disadvantage in scheduling. The Thursday night games run late, and those teams usually end up playing a back to back game the next night (however, neither the Lakers or the Heat play a back to back this Friday).
To add to the challenge, the NBA doesn’t allow a team to play back to back home games, so the team playing Thursday night is forced to play a road game and must travel for the Friday game (and vice versa if played on the road and then goes home for the next night).
But since the Thursday night game runs late due to TV timeouts and a late start due to the doubleheader format, this means a team like the Lakers fly out of LA around midnight/one am to head to the city they will play their Friday night game.
Going to places like Denver, Utah or Texas, means the Lakers not only get into those cities in the early morning hours on Friday, but the Lakers lose one to two hours in tine change.
Jackson’s Bulls never had to deal with this new Thursday night scheduling format and therefore, according to Jackson, this is the dagger to the heart for a team attempting a run at his record.
He calls those back to back games, off of the Thursday night, “scheduled losses” for those teams, as the odds of the Lakers rolling into Denver at 2am, getting in a shoot-around on Friday morning (usually cancelled to give players more sleep), and then showing up to play against an quality opponent with a time change, stand at nearly zero of a chance of winning the Friday game.
So, the deck is stacked against the Lakers or the Heat to set the record.
And, the last point of my argument is also a big factor. Get this. Jackson doesn’t want to set the record. Neither does Dr. Jerry Buss, owner of the Lakers, nor I would imagine Pat Riley or his owner, Micky Arison, down in Miami want to risk playoff hardware for regular season bragging rights.
Even Jackson’s management in Chicago begged him not to try for the record in 1995-1996. The reason is simple. Why push your team in the regular season and wear them out for nothing but a token record, especially when a NBA tittles loom?
So, maybe we can all put the 73 regular season win dream to sleep. It is a dream and now, especially with NBA TNT Thursday night basketball, the dream is dead. Let it go and let’s worry about seeing teams like the Lakers and Miami in June, when the games count. That’s the dream to focus on.
Want to learn more about Kobe Bryant and his gladiator mentality? Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success, at www.PatMixon.com.