Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James Comment on Current Length of NBA Season

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2014

USA Today

As the NBA continues to experiment with measures designed to shorten game length and by proxy prolong players' careers, the opinions of stars have become a major talking point as the preseason winds to a close. Count Dirk Nowitzki among those in favor of decreasing the wear-and-tear on his comrades' bodies.

Just not in the way the NBA is currently experimenting.        

Speaking with ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon, the 12-time All-Star said the problem is not with game length but with the total number of games.

"I think you don't need 82 games to determine the best eight in each conference," Nowitzki said. "That could be done a lot quicker, but I always understand that it's about money, and every missed game means missed money for both parties, for the league, for the owners, for the players. I understand all that and that's why I don't think it's going to change any time soon."

The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets will experiment with a 44-minute preseason game Sunday, a move the league says is designed to improve the flow of the game.

“At our recent coaches’ meeting, we had a discussion about the length of our games, and it was suggested that we consider experimenting with a shorter format,” NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said in a statement. “After consulting with our Competition Committee, we agreed to allow the Nets and Celtics to play a 44-minute preseason game in order to give us some preliminary data that will help us to further analyze game-time lengths.”

Oct 15, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) brings the ball down court  against the Indiana Pacers during the first half at the Cintas Center. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James weighed in on the debate and whether it would be better to cut down the time of a game or the total number of games in a season, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com: 

It's not the minutes, it's the games. The minutes don't mean anything. We can play 50-minute games if we had to. It's the games that I think we all as players think is too many games in our season. 82 games are a lot. But it's not the minutes, taking away minutes from the game is not going to shorten the game at all.

Once you go out and play on the floor, it doesn't matter if you're playing 22 minutes, like I'm playing tonight, or you play 40 minutes. Once you play, it takes a toll on your body. So it's not less minutes, it's games.

The experiment will help cut broadcast time by shortening the playing time by four minutes and trimming one mandatory timeout in the second and fourth quarters. In the 48-minute format, there are three mandatory timeouts (for commercial breaks) in the even-numbered quarters; in the 44-minute format, there are only two.

If ever implemented over the long term, the shorter games would undoubtedly lessen some wear on players. Over the course of an 82-game season, 328 minutesthe equivalent of a little less than seven gameswould be wiped away. 

Tom Haberstroh @tomhaberstroh

However, moving to 44-minute games wouldn't reap all benefits of a 75-game schedule. Teams still have to travel for 82.

The change would also bring the NBA closer to international rules. FIBA, the governing body which hosted this year's basketball World Cup in Spain, has four 10-minute quarters. The NBA may not change game or season length without collectively bargaining the alterations with players. 

Players may prefer a smaller game number over the 44-minute solution for a number of reasons. The first is there is no guarantee stars would receive less playing time. Carmelo Anthony, the leader in minutes per game played last season, could easily fit his 38.7 minutes in the 44-minute game. The players who would receive less playing time are the ones on the margins—the ones who comprise most of the National Basketball Player's Association.

May 4, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) reacts against the San Antonio Spurs in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

What's more, Nowitzki posits a reduction of games into the "mid-60s" would allow for a drastic reduction in back-to-backs, the scourge of many players' existence:

Honestly, I never was a big fan of back-to-backs even when I was 20 years old. I think that you should never have to play at the highest level there is two consecutive nights and flying in between. You obviously make it work. We have the best athletes in the world, we feel, but I think it hurts the product some. Last year, some teams get here for the fourth game in five nights and we've been sitting here on rest and just blow them out.

Reducing the number of games has its own obstacles, mostly tied to revenue. The NBA just signed lucrative broadcast contracts with Disney and Turner Sports on the assumption of those games being available. Questions would undoubtedly be raised over how the pie would be distributed if the number of games was reduced.

It would be unprecedented for a major professional sports league to shorten its season outside of a work stoppage. It may present fans with an ideal product and players with an easier schedule, but the logistics would be difficult to pull off.   

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter