Sunday Favortism? Not that simple

nomuskles —  November 24, 2009

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Hardwood Paroxysm recently dug into the scheduling oddities and discovered that the Lakers play 29% of their home games on Sunday.  Matt wonders if something fishy is going on. Is the league favoring the Lakers by playing them on Sundays more often than other days? His discussion covered the following:

1. Traveling west is harder for East teams than traveling east is for West teams.

2. The league wants a big market / marquee team on national television more often

3. Playing on Sunday after spending a Saturday (party) night in LA is setting a team up for failure.

4. 29% of games played on a single day of the week is too many. (Games evenly split among the days of the week would fall close to 14%.

I disagree with points 1 and 4. Number 2 is probably true, in my opinion. And number 3 is not exactly cut and dry.

Traveling west is NOT more difficult for the NBA teams. You gain hours traveling west, which means more hours to sleep before shootaround or the game (early Sunday games). A team traveling west might arrive late at night and then have to play the 12:30PT/3:30ET game. Their bodies feel like it’s 3:30pm. There is plenty of time for them to rest after flying in. Conversely, if the Lakers travel to the Eastern time zone and play the 12:30ET game, they are playing at 9:30 am according to their bodies. Have you ever tried to play at 9:30 in the morning? Not an easy task, especially after traveling and sleeping in a hotel.

The league probably does want the Lakers to play on Sundays more often than other teams. Not really a surprise.

As far as the concern that Sunday follows Saturday, I’m not sure how we could figure out if that is a big factor or not. For one, the Lakers are also available on Saturday night to go out and do whatever it is that young multimillionaires do. Secondly, wouldn’t teams be having the same problem during the week as well? It’s not like parties can’t be had on a Monday night in LA. Perhaps the only part of that argument that I buy is that the other teams may take part in the revelry more than the Lakers because the Lakers are used to the scene already.

Lastly, I don’t doubt that it’s a little suspicious that the Lakers play 29% of their games on Sunday. However, since they share Staples Center with The Kings and The Clippers, the team schedules tend to be similar every week. For instance, the Lakers usually play at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays and only have two home games on Wednesday and two on Monday. Is that suspicious as well? It’s not if you consider the Clippers tend to play on Monday and Wednesday. The Clippers only play 2 Tuesday games and 1 Thursday game this year. I think the scheduling overload on Sunday is caused as much by the wish to get the Lakers on ABC sunday games as it is to fit three teams into the same building.

If the Lakers hardly ever play at home on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, that only leaves four days to handle 90% of the games. It is not unthinkable then that a big market team with marquee players would be scheduled a little more often on Sunday than their other days, but it’s not exactly lopsided. Splitting their games evenly among the four days would be 25%. Compare that to the 29% calculated by the ESPN stats department and it’s not too far off.

As always, the answers probably lies somewhere in between two extreme arguments.




56 responses to Sunday Favortism? Not that simple

  1. Excellent post nomuskles… kinda weird but I do believe the fact that these scheds have been pre-arranged due to Staples Center’s traffic.

    I have a friend who works at Staples and agrees with you that Laker games are “stapled” (pun intended) on Tuesdays and Thursdays… I will seek his info as to why this is so, but my best guess is because the Clippers and Kings also take the stage. Not to mention the Sparks too.

  2. Kurt from previous post… LOL its fine.

  3. so tonight we play the New York Knickerbockers (were a men’s or boys’ baggy knee trousers particularly popular in the early twentieth century) funny name, after baggy pants for boys.
    I didn’t really know what a Knickerbocker was so I looked it up on wikipedia, always good to learn something new.

  4. Props to you chris 4 that. I wonder what a Laker is =D

  5. In Matt’s defense.. he did acknowledge that a) the laker’s terrific sunday record is not inconsistent with their overall record.. not exactly an anomaly. b) he’s a long-time laker hater/basher.

  6. #1 is absolutely wrong, and many coaches in many sports have actually said as much (West teams are at a disadvantage traveling East whereas the reverse is not true).

  7. This is an interesting analysis about the Lakers, but if there were a scheduling issue that favors the Lakers it is the incredible stretches of home games. This year the stretch is at the beginning of the season, I remember a couple of seasons where it was at the end. Having so many games at home in a row has to be a bigger advantage than the threat of visiting players going nuts in LA on a Saturday night. I know it means that they have several road trips, but presumably having time to fix the problems by being at home either before or after the trip has got to be an advantage.

  8. @Mike: Yeah, he did mention that the Lakers weren’t exactly losing a ton of games to begin with. However, the main thrust of his post seems to shed some skeptical attention toward the favorable Lakers schedule. I don’t know that there is a definite answer as to whether the league is setting the Lakers up to win their Sunday games, but I don’t think there is a strong case for the affirmative.

    Also, for clarification. I picked four days to spread the games around because the Lakers generally play a Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday schedule and will sometimes have one more game sprinkled in somewhere. So the games are probably spread somewhere between three and four days a week (which would actually raise the percentage of games expected on Sunday). With Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday being the most common days.

  9. As for #1, not surprised that a Laker hater would twist around conventional wisdom to fit his agenda.

  10. @3: The Knickerbocker name is also derived from Washington Irving’s collection of short stories where he referred to Diedrich Knickerbocker as a founding father of the Dutch colonies of New York. He is mentioned in the first line of “Rip van Winkle”.

    “The following Tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker…”

    Lakers are the men who worked on the ships (also referred to as Lakers) that populated the lakes of Minnesota, “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”.

    On the East Coast/West Coast time differential, I was lucky to watch the Shaq/Kobe Lakers play at MSG on a Sunday afternoon. They won the game, but it looked as if they were playing in molasses. Phil had some post game quotes referencing “Circadian Rhythm”.

  11. Matt at HP posted a response. Hilarious. Make sure you read the headline and the tags. He also makes a good point about the wisdom of stapling the clippers and lakers to specific days.

  12. They do have a favorable early season schedule.. 17/21 at home or sth?

    wow that crazy pills video was GREAT! he is definitely getting a book.

  13. Isn’t the long stretch of home games at least partially balanced by the long road trip in January every year?

  14. Since Matt has rescinded his most absurd claim, my post will lose some of the righteous indignation I was intending to respond with. 🙂

    First, the Lakers do get a favorable schedule for Sunday games because… well they are the Lakers – apparently a lot of people like to watch them play. This is not about helping the Lakers, it is about selling advertising.

    Second as a person who is on the road a lot -the east/west thought was so inane, it is hardly worth responding to. West to east is much tougher – I have never heard a complaint from friends or colleagues going east to west.

    On point three – then we must conclude that for the Lakers all home games are tougher because of the non-stop partying, right? I mean visiting teams only have one or two games here and thus only one or two tough nights of partying to endure – but for the Lakers they actually are in LA for all home games – no really – so half their games are played after a night of partying, not just one or two. Man, it must be a relief for them to get on the road where there are no night clubs or parties to attend.

    It was an entertaining read though.

  15. Games won’t be evenly distributed across the days of the week because only 4 teams play on Thursday. So we would expect on average more games to fall on the other days of the week.

  16. 1- The West has been a lot better than the East for a long time so I wouldn’t be surprised if East team get beat a lot out West, but that doesn’t mean the move out here is the reason. Whereas playing in the morning is an obvious benefit to anybody who watches those games. I think some teams have actually sought advice on how to combat jetlag effects on road trips.

    2- Sunday games aren’t even televised nationally yet, so why are they still playing on Sundays? The fact is, anybody who plays fantasy basketball knows that there are a lot less games on certain days of the week as others so that the national games get more attention in various markets. I think Thursdays are usually light, for instance. And good teams are clearly on more often than bad teams so it makes sense for the good Lakers to be on Thursday more often than the terrible Clippers.

    3- This is easily the most asinine theory. As though scheduling a game this day will magically result in other teams going out and getting smashed. Like its not entirely those players’ decision. As Nomuskles points out these guys aren’t on a Monday-Friday schedule. Why would they be more likely to go out Saturday when its a work night than Tuesday?

    4- With all the obscure rules governing scheduling already, especially in arenas housing concerts and 3 sports teams, why do we need to add another wrench in just to make sure that all days are treated equally. What evidence is there that any day is more succesful than any other?

    If anything, I’ve always assumed the increased number of Sunday Home dates had to do with selling the special white Sunday Jerseys. Matt is stretching farther than Dhalsim from Street Fighter.

  17. @3, building on 11: Knickerbocker was a term used to refer to old Dutch families in New York. The connotation was one of a respectable class and status. It’s actually a touch snobbish. The original baseball club went by this name as well, I believe.

  18. I think the tone of this post is too conciliatory. I think the accusation that the Lakers receive special treatment that favours them is bereft of merit, and constitutes an attack on the legitimacy of their greatness. It’s bunk.

  19. Thanks for the rebuttal.

    Does anyone else find this kind of stuff just tiring. Look I get that there are Laker haters, I’m fine with that. I get that Matt Moore doesn’t like the Lakers and I actually respect the fact that he makes no bones about it. It’s interesting to me to see and hear opposing viewpoints especially if they’re done with a sense of humor.

    But, that said, I just get so tired of the same old complaints. Lakers are favored, Lakers get all the breaks, etc. It just gets so boring after a while. If I can avoid it I do, one of the reasons I like this site. But HP does have interesting takes on other NBA items most of the time. So I just find it extremely irritating and tiresome when they just regurgitate the same old tired storylines.

    I’m just so over it.

  20. @firewalker,
    Give these insane claims legitimacy by taking them seriously? No thank you.

    From a certain point of view it makes sense. It’s easier and less painful to believe that if your team was given the same preferential treatment they would also be as good, than to be forced to accept that, no, they won’t. The Lakers really are this much better and are going to stay this much better. As long as we have this starting line-up, it’s going to be crushingly difficult for any other team to win a Western Conference Championship.

    If you’re a fan of one of those other teams, it’s probably easy to become a little bitter. I know I would be if I knew my team was destined to continue coming in second to another team season after season, never actually having a real chance.

    Especially one that has such arrogant fans who don’t even appreciate how lucky they, but take it for granted and actually have the nerve to complain and criticize their team when it’s 6-1 to start the season. 🙂

  21. Yes, the accusations of favoritism for the Lakers do get tiring. Even from the national media. Michael Wilbon still occasionally rants about Game 6 against the Kings several years ago, as do a fair amount of NBA bloggers, and the only time I see Games 2 and 5 of that series mentioned (utter travesties in favor of the Kings) are in the comments. The final 30 seconds of Game 5 are just as egregious, if not more so, than the fourth quarter of Game 6.

    What got me about Matt Moore’s rant about Sunday scheduling was that all of the evidence that was available to him pointed to the opposite of the argument he was trying to make. The “east to west” argument was so absurd…it’s almost like saying that the reason Greg Oden is such a good center is because he always stays out of foul trouble and he spreads the court with his long jump shots.

  22. I didn’t refresh the page until I had lost my edit button, so I missed my chance to comment on JD’s awesome Street Fighter reference.

    Seven geek points and a complimentary style point to you! 🙂

    The best argument by the way for why the notion of Lakers partying on a Saturday is inane: Who’d want to face Kobe after the game, if your hangover and exhaustion became the reasons your team lost? I think a rabid wolf might be preferable to that…

  23. I can assure you that if you stop being better than everyone else, I’ll stop hating. Well, at least hating as much. Maybe.

    Your team is so good it makes me sick. Thanks for reading.

  24. Hastings, +1 for the Street Fighter ref.

  25. Yoga Fire FTW

  26. Sun Tue Thu are probably better days for attendance and TV ratings than Mon Wed Sat. The Lakers get those days because they’re the Lakers. Deal with it.

    Back to Kobe’s circus shot: it’s very telling of his mentality that right after the shot his attitude wasn’t “did you see that?” but “where’s the foul?” I would actually prefer it if Kobe takes a little time to preen a little — no need to do the chicken dance or throw chalk in the air, just let the fans enjoy the moment and enjoy it himself.

    I’m going to the game tonight. Only the second time for me so I’m excited. I have poor eyesight so can only enjoy the game w/ really good (read: expensive) seats. Hope it’ll be half as fun as the last game.

  27. Off topic – NBATV is showing the Lakers vs Kings Game 1 playoff game from 2001 (Lakers swept the series 4-0). Things that stand out:

    1. I almost forgot how much Shaq used to get away with murder. Donaughy was one of the refs for this game.
    2. Kobe was an outstanding defender. You should see how he was able to hound Jason Williams and he wasn’t giving up on pick and roll scenarios. I know he gets on the all defensive teams now, but I agree with Jeff Van Gundy that this is due to reputation. He’s getting up there in age so it’s understandable, but Kobe was a 10 times better defender than he is now.

  28. I seem to recall that Shaq rarely played well in the 1st half of those Sunday day games, and I assumed this was the Saturday night party hangover effect.

  29. What a brilliant expose! WIthout question, the league should redress this immediately by having the lakers play most of their games monday mornings and wednesday afternoons.

    Presumably, this is even a greater Laker advantage during the playoffs… so why not hold playoff games in the middle of the night? That way, the visiting team can comes straight to Staples from the Playboy mansion and not miss a beat… Or, to really make things fair, just let the Lakers play all their games on the road…


  30. I wonder if Hardwood Paroxysm checked the schedules for every team in the league for scheduling oddities. For example the Boston Celtics play 29% of their homes games on a Friday. The New York Knicks play 22% of their homes game on Sunday. So the scheduling oddity is not unique to the Lakers.

  31. Thank you, Matt. I appreciate your generous offer (as well as how difficult it must have been to make), but the more I think about it, the more I think I prefer having another banner in the rafters, to having everyone suddenly like the Lakers. 🙂

  32. Matt, you forgot to mention how the league favors the lakers by allowing them to play every christmas when the other teams are stuck having to take time off to spend with their families… no doubt a huge advantage, not to be saddled with all that emotion that might distract from championship momentum…

  33. To be honest, the whole “The Lakers get an unfair advantage by playing on Sunday!” thing was mostly just a vehicle for looking at the oddity of how many games they play on Sunday.

    @glove32: See, now, that’s why I brought it up. I think it would be interesting to look at not only which teams play on different days, but what their winning percentage is on those days. It’s not like the Lakers lose a whole hell of a lot to begin with, but if they did, it sure doesn’t look like it happens much on Sundays. It’s not an advantage, it’s an oddity.

    To those of you commenting on how “tiresome” it is, just keep in mind that even if it all is circumstantial, (Donaghy, Game 6, scheduling, whatever), there’s a lot of stuff. And that just comes with the attention given champions. I can understand you getting tired of it, much like Spurs fans get tired of being called boring, and Grizzlies fans get tired of being called your breeders (which essentially they are).

    But I do appreciate the complete derision of a post that said from the outset it wasn’t serious. At least you’re not Blazers fans. I’d have to shut down comments and move to Alaska by now.

  34. You’re welcome and apology accepted.

  35. Matt, your next hilarious post about Laker fans using “facts” and “actual knowledge” balanced out the first one. And you’re right, we do get tired of the favoritism and bandwagon fan accusations. It’s as if people believe that no Laker fan exists outside of the lower bowl of Staples.

  36. Matt – I actually enjoy a lot of the Laker bashing. I enjoy the banter and fun of the internet and how (for the most part) it has actually made watching basketball more fun.

    Keep firing away. Maybe, just maybe (said with Jean Gerard accent), if you keep it up you will ascend to the pantheon of Simmons and Abbot. 🙂

  37. Well, poke at someone’s sore spot, and you’ll get your hand slapped… 😉 There are far too many who would post that and actually be serious, and of course we go laugh at them too.

    Does anyone have a link to the Nuggets blog that was dead serious about the NBA Scheduling Conspiracy whose goal it is to ensure that the Lakers get as favorable as schedule as possible (apparently the NBA works like the BCS?), to guarantee they make the playoffs. It was hilarious, partly because I think it actually was serious.

    But in the end, blogs like this, one, the rebuttal here and the accusation that someone dared using “actual knowledge” is nothing but the internet version of trash talking. And just like VoR said, trash talking is an important part of the fun with basketball, or any other sport for that matter.

    Go Lakers! 🙂

  38. I just saw the Ron Artest naked interview… I loved how he pretended like he was going to put his shirt back on a couple times with no intention of ever doing so. Show off that body Ron… you deserve to.

  39. Maybe i am joining the bandwagon but how about someone start a petition to put Shannon Brown into the Allstars Slam Dunk contest?

  40. I’m with VoR. I kind of like the bashing. It adds to the Laker lore. It helps teams and fans believe there is truly something special about the Lakers. It gets in their heads. Think about it. How many bloggers are spouting conspiracy theories (even playful ones) about the Milwaukee Bucks? What about favoritism theories regarding the Washington Wizards? Exactly. Those teams are not in the same stratosphere as the Los Angeles Lakers. Those are pro basketball teams. The Lakers are a movement, a philosophy, a way of life.

    Heck, I was a fan of the Pacers, or some of these other teams I’d hate the Lakers too.

  41. Look at the distances and time zones necessary for travel in the Western Conference, vs in the Eastern conference

  42. Favortism or Favoritism?

  43. The Artest video was hilarious (I am liking him more and more in LA) and he seems to be fitting in just fine, both in Hollywood, and also with the team on the floor. Yeah, let’s win some more banners and have more people hate us, I am all for that.

  44. Aren’t we due for another game preview soon…?

  45. Here’s my in depth Knicks preview for everybody until the real one comes up:

    No Knicks player can guard any Lakers player.

  46. LOL @j.d.
    And that’s sad but true if one is a Knick fan.

  47. I wrote a longer response on HP and I forgot to copy it before I posted, and it’s stuck in moderation hell. And in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya “Let me ‘splain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up.” My points, in a nutshell, were these:

    1) Much ado about nothing. Of the 12 Lakers Sunday home games, 9 are 6:30 PM starts. The other 3 are 12:30 starts against Western Conference teams.

    2) Like everyone has already said, it’s far easier to travel West than East, especially if you’re an NBA player. This is proven anecdotally by how many stinkers the Lakers have put up over the years when they have played a 12:30 EST start. Usually they have one a year (against NY, Philly, or Toronto it always seems like) and they play horribly because they’re still asleep.

    3) Any discussion about scheduling advantages that doesn’t acknowledge the significant advantage Eastern teams have is automatically invalid. Not only do they have much shorter trips on average, but they only have to go to the altitudes of Denver and Utah half as many times as Western teams do.

  48. After so many years I have to imagine Knicks fans understand their plight and are watching just because they like good basketball. Why else would Spike Lee agree to talk to Kobe after the game in public???

    I also wanted to find video of Mike D’Antoni talking about how he and the Suns always “bust” the Lakers in the Playoffs.

  49. To rehash points already made:

    Golden State typically plays several home games on Saturday night, most teams have certain days for home games. No big deal.

    As I recall from back “in the day”, I could get in trouble as easy on a Friday night as on a Saturday night ….

    Not only the time loss going east, but western conference teams have larger geograhpical distances between cities (especially when back to backs are involved). This is more wear and tear as the season goes on.

  50. #11/Gatinho

    A “Laker” was also a kind of freighter used on the Great Lakes.

    I’d thought this was the sense of the word, much in the same way the Clippers are named after a kind of boat.

  51. Well… this is Global Warming stats at its best… they don’t prove or mean anything.

    There is no comparison of the percentage of 29% to what other teams have. So there is not an ounce of proof of favoritism.

    In addition, a Saturday game would be jsut as bad as a Sunday one.

    Also, playing on the weekend lessens the time difference burden on east coast teams because the games are earlier.

    This is bad science

  52. If a player is out partying late into the night before a game (especially a Lakers game which you’re more likely to lose) then I have to question that player’s sense of professionalism. I understand this view disregards what really happens, but to point number 3: It’s not the Lakers fault if the other team is out partying, that’s an internal, team affair.

    If anything, teams may have a slight advantage because the Lakers/Clippers host several back to back games that requires no travelling.

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