Could we see less "load management" with...shorter games?

In an era of "load management" and catastrophic injury sending marquee talent packing sometimes months before the season ends only to spend another season on the mend, the NBA is increasingly open to making changes that could prevent fatigue from causing costly injury.

But the problem with change in an association governed by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is that it requires getting team owners on board with such changes, and even considering the overall financial impact of these injuries on the league, the status quo is a more desirable proposition than losing the revenue which would result from a schedule with fewer games.

In that light, there are two ways one could reduce stress on rosters which would have a less-stinging impact on owner bottom lines, both of which involve a reduction in the minutes played by key players.

A less radical way of doing this would be to expand roster limits and make the required roster size bigger as well. Currently, the league requires (with exceptions) a maximum of 15 and minimum of 13 regular NBA contracts on a roster in the regular season.

To blunt the impact of so many games on so many knees and backs, the league could require teams to have at least one more active player to fill two more roster slots, one for the regular roster, and another two-way player from the NBA G-League, using cap relief incentives to encourage owners to play stars something closer to 25 minutes per game in the many non-marquee matchups which comprise the regular season.

However, they could also take a more radical if simple approach of simply lopping off the number of minutes all players play, as well.

They could shorten the game overall to something closer to the college and international structure, shaving off two minutes per quarter, while throwing three-minute breaks between quarters to help keep advertisers happy. The commensurate reduction of timeouts might also lead to a slightly better aesthetic product, too, which can be furthered with reducing overtime periods from five to three minutes.

If done right, something to the tune of a fifth of the minutes played over the course of a season could be erased without losing a single game's revenue, while also assuring many of the most important and interesting legs in the league have less injury and more bounce come the postseason.

Purists will undoubtedly decry the move as detrimental to the game's records, but I'd argue the game has changed so much over the years, you'd have to be mostly ignorant of the history of the game's evolution to not see the fallacy of such an argument.

The pace of the game has shifted so much in both directions that the sport changes character almost entirely every other decade or so, and the advent of the shot clock, three-point line, and even draft and defensive rule changes have done every bit of the thing such "purists" would be critical of.

Of course, there's always the argument that the sport is a contact sport, and people get hurt (and compensated) at a level commensurate with that risk. But such a perspective is an archaic one, one which ignores the fact that people aren't buying game tickets and jerseys to celebrate the fallen - they want to see their favorite players on the court and playing as hard as they are physically capable of.

So, while we continue to invent increasingly fraught euphemisms for the word "rest", I'm of the mind we just give them a little more of it in every game, record concern-trolling be damned.

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Image: S. Babineau/NBAE; video: Boston Celtics, Tomasz Kordylewski
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