The NBA playoffs have not disappointed, even after a long layoff, and league executives are taking note. There are many reasons why players might feel more comfortable in the Bubble than they are criss-crossing the country year-round, but one factor in particular is becoming popular in the league office and among team governors: Travel.
In a new story at ESPN, Baxter Holmes explains that the topic has come up not only among those in the Bubble, but is gaining steam among the most powerful people in the league, as well. Ideas on how to limit travel and get closer to the quality of Bubble basketball even came up on a recent Board of Governors call. It seems that longer homestands similar to how baseball plays its series are one way the governors could limit travel in the NBA going forward.
“… a GM said that it had been his observation — and that he was receiving feedback from management, staff and players — that additional rest and lack of travel were playing a role in the quality of the performances, sources said.
A second GM then chimed in on the same theme, sources said, echoing that the lack of travel and additional rest contributed to better play and helped even out the competition. Sources said a league official on the call then brought up the concept of teams heading into cities to play a potential series of games — fly into a city and play the host team in two games over a short time span. The idea, which several GMs considered akin to a baseball homestand, was discussed in an effort to reduce the mileage teams might have to fly during the regular season.
League officials, including Silver, are well aware that the bubble has offered thrilling individual performances and nail-biting finishes, including notable game-winning shots and overtime endings. It’s unclear what factors have played the biggest role in leading to such performances — there’s no true home-court advantage, for example — but these officials are aware that lack of travel and the additional rest and time for recovery have been key components.”
Occasionally, NBA teams will play a home-and-home with a nearby team in which teams will compete in one city then the other, but this would be even more convenient, with teams potentially clashing twice in the same locale back-to-back. But as the schedule currently stands, this would likely only be possible with in-division teams that play each other multiple times in each city. And divisional games are the least travel-intensive on the schedule.
One executive told Holmes that even cutting travel by 10-20 percent would be helpful, so expect the NBA to continue brainstorming different options to make that happen.