If you haven't heard, Commissioner Stern has announced the cancellation of all games through November 30th, said that a 82 game schedule is not possible, and has called the all heralded Christmas Day games into question.
Though this article might be out of date in a few days, I thought it was an interesting question to pose. If, for some reason, the NBA starts on December 1st, then how many games will the teams play? And what matchups will be canceled?
Well, there are a few different factors to consider. First of all, as Darnell Mayberry wrote about earlier this week, you can pretty much throw the current schedule out of the window. There would be too much favor towards certain teams, and certain division series would have teams playing each other an uneven number of times.
You must also consider that the current schedule does matter a bit, in the sense that Arenas have dates reserved for the games in the first place. In all senses of the word, the NBA must work around those dates, especially if they have a sudden change of heart and want to start on December 1st. Arenas, especially those that are in big cities or house a hockey team in the same arena, will have difficulty accommodating the NBA, especially during December and January.
Regardless, with the loss of November, the Thunder have lost 16 total games. I'm assuming it's around the same amount for the rest of the league. That leaves us with around 66 games to work with. Just to give you some perspective, here's how the regular NBA schedule is broken down.
4 Matchups with Each Division Opponent, counting for 16 Games
4 Matchups with 6 Same Conference Opponents, counting for 24 Games
3 Matchups with 4 Same Conference Opponents, counting for 12 Games
2 Matchups with Opposite Conference Opponents, counting for 30 Games
Below: How you would cut them out in a perfect world, how they were cut in 1998-1999, and a question asking how you think they should be cut!
From a logical standpoint, it would make sense to eliminate the extra matchup with each Western conference team, freeing up 6 games. It still keeps a strict order of 4 matchups to each division opponent, 3 matchups to each conference opponent, and 2 matchups to each other conference opponent.
But if 76 games is still too much, there are more drastic measures that could be taken. You could shave the extra game off of matchups with teams in the same conference, freeing up an extra 30 games. You could cut off a game against a division opponent, freeing up 4 games but creating a competitive advantage to some teams. You could also take the matchups against other conference opponents down to one, freeing up 15 games.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world, and the schedule is much more likely to be haphazardly put together. In 1998-1999, the NBA shoved 50 games into a few short months. And because they wanted to preserve games between teams in the same conference, the cut off over half of the matchups with opposing conference opponents, meaning that some teams never even saw each other. Of course, some inter-conference matchups were cut as well (they only played 50 games), but the vast majority of cuts related to out of conference games. While I don't think this is a desirable solution, it makes sense in terms of money. No owner wants to pay for flights from Portland to Miami or from Los Angeles to Boston. By keeping it regional, you save money.
It's really hard to say exactly how the NBA is going to go about this without actually knowing when the season will start and without analyzing what arenas are scheduled more closely.
But now, just for fun, which matchups would you like to see cancelled? Division games? Conference Games? Out of Conference Games? A mix of all three? All of the games against the Kings and Timberwolves?