Thursday, August 7, 2008

The difference between "favorable" and "unfavorable" schedules

Sitting here going through the 2008-09 NBA schedules, which were just released.

Casual fans may not give much thought to the schedule, but I really believe it's a key to a team's success.

At the beginning of the season, it's important to have home games as you're trying to get off to a good start. Similarly, at the season's end, home games are important as your club contends for a playoff spot or is building momentum for the postseason.

In Golden State, for example, 23 of the Warriors' first 36 games are on the road. When you're only at home for 13 of your first 36 games, it can be challenging.

As I go through a schedule for the first time, I'm looking for a few things:

First, how many back-to-back games do we have. On back-to-backs, is the first game at home or on the road? Are we playing a home-and-away or consecutive road games? If we're on the road, is our opponent off the night before we play them? How many road games have we played before the second game of a back-to-back? How many three- or four-game homestands do we have?

Just from glancing quickly at the new NBA schedules, Detroit has 16 back-to-backs this coming season. Orlando has 16, as well. Cleveland has 19. New York has 18.

Second, changing time zones is tough, so I'll look for how many times we travel against time zones.

Third, when we're going from east to west, how much time do you have to recover between games?

A key difference between a "favorable" and an "unfavorable" schedule is back-to-back games. If your club has more of these than most clubs, it's going to be tough.

The more off-days between games, the better as it gives your club more time to prepare.

Finally, go through and count how many times you have four games in five nights. That's a difficult stretch for any team and it wears on a club -- players and coaches alike. As an example, just looking at the Knicks' schedule, they have three sets of four-games-in-five-nights.

If I could design the perfect schedule, I'd keep it to around 50 games. This would allow for more practice time.

Start times are a consideration. A lot of teams tip-off at 7:30 rather than 7 p.m. But if you're flying out after the game on a road trip, that 30 minutes is a big deal. It might not seem like it, but as any veteran business traveler will tell you, every minute counts when you're on the road.