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Right now, there’s a small controversy brewing in the NBA over the length of the regular season, which some claim has led to increased injuries and player fatigue.
But count former NBA-journeyman-turned-ESPN-analyst Richard Jefferson among those who want to keep things as they are.
“It’s absurd,” Jefferson said recently. “They have done every single thing…You want to shorten the season? Like how much more do we have to make this coddling and all this stuff go with the players?”
Though some marquee players — including Devin Booker of the Suns and the Khris Middleton of the Bucks — were sidelined this postseason due to injury, Jefferson still insists that shortening the season makes “absolutely no sense.”
“[Shortening the NBA season] is the epitome of coddling players. Shortening the season you’re going to mess with records, you’re going to mess with numbers. You’re going to mess with so much of our basketball.”
Over fifty years ago, the NBA settled on an 82-game regular season, and that’s been the standard ever since. So it’s not like challenging schedules or late-season fatigue is some new phenomenon.
However, the league did add a play-in tournament for the playoffs, which means slightly more wear and tear on some players.
Several years ago, teams began resting otherwise healthy players for high-profile games to mitigate fatigue and injury. Though the strategy may have helped players, it negatively affected fan experience and took its toll on viewership, which angered TV executives. The league stepped in and curtailed the practice in 2021.
And that should make Jefferson happy, who last fall excoriated players who rested themselves unnecessarily: “There was a time where playing in 82 games was a badge of honor. It’s no longer a badge of honor. It’s about how long can we stay healthy and preserve it for the long run.”
Agree or disagree with him, at least he’s consistent. And consistency is all we can ask.