The Lakers and Compressed Schedules

Phillip Barnett —  October 28, 2011

While watching some of the lockout coverage, the idea of still having an 82-game schedule should the lockout end by this weekend or early next week crept into my mind. I thought about the Lakers roster, and more importantly, the collective age of the members on their roster as it currently stands. I wondered how a compacted 82-game schedule would impact an aging Lakers team and decided to look back at the 98-99 season for comparison.

What immediately stood out was the fact that the Lakers played 17 back-to-backs over the course of 50 games during the span of 145 days including three back-to-back-to-backs(!). To put it in perspective, the Lakers played a mere 15 back-to-backs during the course of their 82-game regular season schedule. One would assume that aging teams wouldn’t fare well with such a brutal schedule with little rest between games, but when I looked at the playoff teams for each conference and compared the average age of the team with where they finished at the end of the regular season, I was a bit surprised by what I found.

(Note: I only looked at the Top 10 rotation guys in terms of minutes played when calculating average age of teams. I didn’t think it was necessary to include 11th and 12th men considering they rarely had impact on games and didn’t see the floor long enough to where their age/physical ability correlation meant much to their respective team. Also, this was able to exclude a lot of guys who spent a huge part of the season on the bench due to injuries.)

The 98-99 Playoff Teams and Average Age

WEST
Spurs – 30
Jazz – 29.9
Blazers – 27.7
Lakers – 28.3
Rockets – 28.8
Suns – 30.2
Kings – 26.1
Timberwolves – 27.4


EAST
Heat – 29.8
Pacers – 30.4
Magic – 28.9
Hawks – 29.9
Pistons – 27.9
76ers – 26
Bucks – 28.5
Knicks – 29.2

What you’ll find above is that the more experienced teams finished with the top two spots in each conference while no team with an average under 28 finished with home court advantage in the first round except for the Portland Trailblazers (who ended up getting swept by the Spurs). While the younger teams might have been better equipped to physically handle the grueling schedule, it was the teams that were better prepared mentally with lots of veteran presence that ended up finishing with the best records at the end of the regular season. Furthermore, the two teams that made the finals had an average age of 30 (Spurs), and 29.2 (Knicks) years old. Now take a look at the average ages of all of the playoff teams from last season.

The 10-11 Playoff Teams and Average Age


WEST
Spurs – 28.8
Lakers – 29.8
Dallas – 34.3
Thunder – 23.9
Nuggets – 28.1
Blazers – 26.5
Hornets – 25.7
Grizzlies – 25.7


EAST
Bulls – 27.4
Heat 29.1
Celtics – 29.6
Magic – 27.7
Hawks – 27.4
Knicks – 24.6
76ers – 24.5
Pacers – 26.5

The Lakers had the second highest average age in the league last season, which, if I could actually make any correlation between the unpromised upcoming season and the 98-99 season, would bode well for the Lakers. In reality, there probably isn’t any connection between what happened over a decade and what might happen next season, but it was interesting to see that the older guys in the league didn’t have a problem hanging with the younger guys after playing back-to-back-to-backs. Also, the style of play was much slower and much more physical than what we see in today’s NBA. It’ll be interesting to see if the rule changes over the last decade will flip the results of the 99 season and have the younger guys running the older guys off the floor in today’s faster paced NBA. Either way, I’ll pay attention to how guys like Kobe, Pau, Metta World Peace, and Matt Barnes handle a much more compressed schedule and how Mike Brown toys with the minutes of these guys as the season progresses.

Phillip Barnett

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7 responses to The Lakers and Compressed Schedules

  1. This is all speculation at this point. Much like talking about trades and FA without knowing what the CBA will look like. We don’t know what the schedule will actually look like. However I do think if there is a compacted schedule it will favore teams with quality depth more than younger teams. The only player that really struggle on back to backs last season on the Lakers and in general throught the league are guys 35 plus years in age. Hence why Fisher severely struggled last season in those situations while the Lakers as a whole were successful.

  2. Yup, well… cross 82 games off the talking points. How kind of the league to go back to their old 47% offer (the one before they offered 50/50 with no conditions) before coming back to 50% again as a sign of economic movement! It’s probably time for the union to go back to 57%.

  3. Many have said it repeatedly, but the posters on here are really unique. I get used to reasoned thinking, being on this site. Reading the comments on ProBasketballTalk makes me realize how, in general, sports fans tend to be uninformed idiots. I love how the general masses of basketball fans hate the players for their 6 cars and luxurious spending, while the owner sent in to destroy negotiations owns an island. Logic fail. Most of those casual fans probably treat the NBA as a secondary sports, and spend most of their time on NFL or MLB or NCAA. Only that can explain the ignorance flying around.

    Another argument that bothers me: the competitive balance propaganda nonsense the owners have been spewing. Right, because the ratings would be through the roof with a Charlotte-Sacramento Finals. Please. The league nearly wet itself with joy when the Lakers and Celtics made it back to the finals. The league began its upswing in the 80s when the Lakers and Boston led the league, and reached its peak of popularity when Michael Jordan literally ruled the league with an iron fist. There was no parity during any of the league’s most popular eras. The only true parity came in the 1970s, and that was a low point for the league.

    So this whole push for revenue sharing under the guise of competitive balance pisses me off. Forgive me for sounding arrogant, but the league needs the Lakers (and other popular franchises) to be good. A league where Charlotte, Milwaukee, and Memphis are the best teams while Boston and Chicago and LA are in the lottery will not be nearly as profitable a league.

  4. 82 is gone, so we’ll see what happens next.

  5. I kinda understand fans siding with the owners.

    If I were rooting for the Kings or the Hornets, I see the point in levelling the field a bit.

    But truly, what needs restructuring is not the system or the cap, but half the owners’ brains.

    No amount of systemic safeguards will save them from their own stupidity and one-upmanship.

  6. On key to remember is that the players play so they can get endorsements and for their paycheck, however, the owners generally own teams either because they enjoy the limelight of a sports franchise or because it supplements their other business investments.

    One side’s (the players) motivations are primary and the other’s (the owners) are secondary.

    Yes, you can point to Jerry Buss, but using him as an example destroys most of the other owner’s arguments in this negotiation.

  7. This break has given me a chance to compare the schedule demands of basketball quality and basketball greed. Greed seems to be winning hands down right now. Setting aside “wear and tear,” the present 82 game schedule makes regional rivalries of minimal significance, with interleague rivalries providing a small pretaste of the playoffs for a few elite teams.

    For me, a schedule of 50 games would be about right–with a strong emphasis on divisional play. If the Lakers played 6 games against each divisional rival and one against every other team in the NBA, one would have 24 + 25 = 49 games per season, divided by 7 months = 7 games per month. That means 2 games per week on three out of four weeks in a month.

    To me, such a schedule would allow practices and team development throughout the season so that competing teams would be adequately prepared and rested for each game. Local rivalry would trump interleague competition.

    A truly representative pairing of all teams each season would be 30X6=180 games per season–nearly a game every day–too wacky for even the NBA to seriously consider–but they probably would if they could.

    Though owners would probably consider a reduction to 50 games as financial suicide, it might actually be the opposite. Sometimes less is more.