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.