Behind the scenes of the creation of the NBA calendar
Tom carelli and Evan wash are two men on a mission. At the head of their team, Carelli, senior VP, in charge of match days and specializing in room availability and TV programming, and Wash executive VP, in charge of basketball strategy and specializing in the analysis of schedules, travel and back-to-backs, aim to stall the 1,230 games of the NBA season in 174 days. All this while adjusting to a whole host of elements to take into account. But for this, a computer is obviously necessary.
Fortunately, we are helped by this computer, a very powerful computer which reveals to us millions of possibilities. It only shows us what matches best with the objectives that we entered in the computer. This is the first draft and then we work on it. It’s probably a two-week process between when we see the first calendar and when we release it. In the meantime, we review it, we correct it, the teams give us comments, we have to make changes for the availability of rooms, etc. I think it represents, I don’t know, 20, 25 drafts. ” Evan wasch
A computer that certain employees are responsible for monitoring so that they can change certain variables to make it more consistent and more workable. Thus, some drafts do not hold up for very long.
”Sometimes we only look at drafts for a few minutes. You can watch it and tell yourself that you can’t have that Clippers game in Boston right now, so we have to fix it. And we’re going to make adjustments and edit a new one. We spend more time on some than on others. ” Evan wash
One of the big unknowns in the NBA calendar every season and for every team concerns back-to-backs. The higher their number, the more sequences with reduced recovery times will be numerous. And if the league has been working for many years to reduce them, the team average this year being 13.5 with all teams being between 12 and 15, it will not be able to remove them permanently. Or at the cost of heavy sacrifices for the teams.
“We play 82 games per season. When you factor in the six days of All-Star Break, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc., it’s roughly 170 days. A little less than that. So the teams play on average every other day. Meaning that you might have a schedule with very little, if any, back-to-back, but you would play every other day and you would never have a point in the season where you could with two days off. rest between matches. You would never have three days off between games. And at the same time, it would be incredibly difficult because of the availability of rooms. ” Evan wasch
Unfortunately, this option has immense drawbacks, which limits the number of consecutive days of rest to one, often done for long journeys, but which above all prevents teams from having calendar slots to set up real training sessions. While the NBA makes sure to note the sequences of each team to maintain a form of physical fairness, it also uses color codes to note its back-to-backs. Green, yellow or red depending on the feasibility of the sequence. By taking into account travel times, time differences, the location of airports and hotels, the league can thus know which back-to-backs are achievable and which must be prevented.
The interest is also to group the away matches together, whether it concerns the opposite conference or his own. The idea is to create blocks of 4,5 or 6 in close areas so that you only have one real long trip each time. The appearance of the mini-series in the regular season last season had allowed teams not to move too much despite a series of games far from their base. Another novelty of last year, but which will disappear, the publication of the calendar in two stages during the year. The reason, with the return of the public in the rooms, the concerts or other shows also resume and the teams need to know the dates when their room is empty as quickly as possible, in order to be able to program other events.
Modified by the pandemic last year, the calendar returns to its classic organizational scheme. Each team will face 4 times each member of its division, 2 times each member of the opposing conference. For the remaining 10 teams and therefore from the same division, 6 will be faced 4 times and 4 will be faced 3 times. This one-match differential being ensured by a matrix which offers a 5-year rollover which allows operation by cycle to play against these intra-conference teams. A system, inspired by that used in the NFL, but for 17 games. Moreover with the extension of the calendar of the American football league, the Super Bowl will take place later, also shifting the All-Star Game which will take place in the second half of February. While there will already have been 18 out of 25 weeks played at the time of the All-Star Game and therefore a little less than 60 games played for most teams. And if some dates might change in the future in this regard, Wasch at least has one certainty.
« I think it’s easy to say for sure that we won’t be doing the All-Star Game on the same weekend as the SuperBowl. » Evan wasch
The NBA must also adapt to TV programming and audiences. Previously big poster day, Thursday will leave a good part to Tuesday from now on. Indeed, the league must adapt to the NFL which offers since 2012 an evening on Thursday. The interest being not to lower the audiences, the NBA tries the experience of beautiful posters on Tuesday. Beautiful posters which are multiplying elsewhere. This year, 15 teams, or half of the league, are scheduled for at least 10 matches on national air. A significant figure, made possible by the general level in the NBA, where more and more teams are catching the eye.
“We probably have more meaningful teams, I will say, to broadcast nationally than we have had since I did this. We have a lot of teams that are going to be exciting, that are going to be teams that people want to watch, players that people want to see. A team like Atlanta and a team like Phoenix for example, which were successful last year, surely would not have been on the national air teams before that. But now they’re going to play Christmas games, be in a lot of big games and play nationwide. ” Tom carelli
Many factors to take into account throughout the process of creating the calendar that would not be possible without the cooperation of the teams, rooms and the league as conceded by Carelli who thanks the protagonists for their cooperation.
Via The Athletic