television broadcast partners (TNT,
ESPN, ABC and NBA TV) project national telecasts on the dates that involve the first return of George to Indy
(December 13, ESPN), Butler to Chicago (February 9, ESPN) and the returns
of Irving and Thomas to their former
cities (October 17 on TNT in Boston
and January 3 on ESPN in Cleveland).
For years, players have been raising concerns about the toll of the league’s 82-
game season and the number of back-to-back games. Devin Booker, one of
the NBA’s rising stars as a point guard
in his third season with the Phoenix
Suns, has admitted that back-to-back
games hurt the level of his play by the
end of last season. When asked about
the toll after the Suns’ April 2 home
loss against the Rockets, Booker said,
“It’s a lot.” The Rockets, having already
clinched a playoff berth, didn’t play
MVP-caliber guard James Harden—and
still won handily.
Early in the season with fresher
legs, Booker set the NBA record for the
youngest player —he was 20—to score at
least 39 points in back-to-back games.
Later, he notched one of the NBA’s
biggest individual performances of the
year by scoring 70 against Boston, the
highest game total since Kobe Bryant’s
81-point outburst in 2006.
The fact that Harden rested in
that game against the Suns raises a
well-publicized issue around the NBA.
Some teams, most notably the San
Antonio Spurs, paced themselves by
resting star players rather than asking
them to make certain road trips with
In the hope that star players
wouldn’t have to sit out, the NBA’s
schedule for 2017–2018 was adjusted
to allow teams to rest more in the regular season. The new schedule has reduced the number of back-to-backs to
an average of 14. 4 per team compared
to an average of 16. 3 last season. Most
significant was the elimination of the
“four-in-fives,” or four games in five
days. By starting the regular season one
week earlier on October 17, the league
gave itself more room on the calendar.
That shift has resulted in no four-in-fives for the first time in league history.
Finding the MECCA
Meanwhile, some of the games on the
schedule will see teams playing in new—
or, in one case, former—surroundings.
The October 26 game in Milwaukee
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