LeBron James hasn’t played since Sunday, April 23.
Steph Curry hasn’t played since Monday, April 24.
James and the Cleveland Cavaliers start the second round Monday, which is an eight-day break between games. Curry and the Golden State Warriors will play Tuesday, ending another eight-day layoff.
The stars of the Cavs and Warriors are among those teams that were having their players take games off in the final few months of the regular season.
That’s a lot of resting.
And, uh, why?
Sure, the teams didn’t know for certain that their players would be getting this much rest due to first-round sweeps — though they probably considered it likely.
But here’s the thing: NBA players get a lot of rest during the playoffs, because the postseason is so long and drawn out.
The Cavs played Game 1 of their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers on April 15. They had one day off before Game 2, two more days off before Game 3, and then one day off before Game 4 on April 23.
So, in nine days, the Cleveland Cavaliers played four games. That is not a grueling schedule, and they wouldn’t have had one even if they hadn’t swept the Pacers and received as a reward eight days off.
Take a look at the one series in this year’s first round that went the full seven games: the Utah Jazz vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.
That series, too, started Saturday, April 15, and it ended with a 104-91 Jazz victory on Sunday. That’s seven games — or, nine days off — in 16 days.
And, we still have another month-and-a-half of this. In about two months, which is the length of the NBA playoffs, the maximum number of games a team can play is 28.
While I have moral objections to NBA teams having healthy players take games off, I also cannot be convinced that they actually need extra rest, because there will be plenty of it when the postseason rolls around.
Sure, the days in between games aren’t technically days off. The players are usually traveling or practicing. But chartered are a pretty luxurious way to travel, and how intense are those practices — they know their team, and, as a series progresses, they’re pretty familiar with their opponents.
A few more thoughts about the NBA playoffs:
Shorter might be better
I enjoy the NBA playoffs. I do. But once June rolls around, I’m often burned out, and it takes a tight, well-played series to keep me engaged. I’ve completely skipped a few NBA Finals (see: 2007, Spurs vs. Cavs).
College basketball’s March Madness is the most exciting postseason in sports. A one-and-done tournament wouldn’t work for the NBA (although I’d love to see it, even if it was only once). But the NBA could get rid of some games to shorten the postseason and possibly even bring more excitement.
How about best-of-five in every round but the Finals — or best-of-fives the first two rounds and then best-of-sevens in the conference finals and the Finals? That would cut off four or six games (or nine to 13 days) off the maximum that a team could play in a postseason.
Shorter series might also bring an increase of upsets.
Take, for instance, the Celtics’ recently completed first-round series, in which they lost the first two games to Chicago. Had it been best-of-five, the Celtics would have been one game away from elimination.
I like this idea of mine.
Respect the No. 1
I’m not buying the Celtics being the worst No. 1 seed ever.
I think the seed of the criticism is that hardly anyone believes they are actually the top team in the Eastern Conference. That’s understandable, and probably true. LeBron James, whether in Miami or Cleveland, has owned the East this decade.
So, fine, the Cavs are the best in the East. But the Celtics had a solid, fairly consistent season. And, with a steady coach, Brad Stevens, and one of the NBA’s most exciting and clutch players in Isaiah Thomas, by the end of the season, Boston ended up with the most wins in the East.
Home-court advantage can be nullified by LeBron James, but if the Celtics make it to the Eastern Conference finals, they’ll be more confident starting the series at the Garden.
And, if the series reaches a seventh game, the Celtics will be thrilled to play it in Boston.
‘Celtic Pride’ still in play
The Jazz taking Game 7 against the Clippers on Sunday keeps alive the possibility of fictional Finals matchup happening in real life.
I’m talking about the 1996 movie “Celtic Pride,” in which the Celtics and Jazz meet in the NBA finals.
It isn’t likely, and it wasn’t a very good movie, but it might be a fun series.
And maybe, to bring fiction further to life, Celtics fans wouldn’t wait until the offseason to try to kidnap Gordon Hayward.