It was nearly a year ago that the would-be 2016-17 Eastern Conference champs kicked off a grueling first half of the season. CelticsBlog editor wjsy sized up the gnarly first three months well in a post he wrote a year ago this week.
....the first two months of the season are brutal. The Celtics don’t have a home stand longer than two games in October, November, and December, and 20 out of their first 34 games are on the road. That makes for a nice home stretch to close out 2016-2017, but the team could struggle out of the gate.
Well, the 2017-18 campaign should feel different for both players and fans.
According to a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the league announced via memo yesterday that the season’s earlier start in mid-October will remove the need for runs of four games in five days and 18 games in 30 days. There are a host of other changes detailed in the report.
The announcements stop short of any talk of shortening the season (or games, for that matter) to lessen the burden on players’ bodies, but it should account for more rest for contenders that will spend more time on national broadcasts.
This year, that means the Boston Celtics.
Whether Celtics player, staffer, or fan – rest and schedule spacing will likely be received with warm embrace. Thomas’ hip injury and subsequent recovery is still a concern, so it’s a comfort to know that the team won’t have to repeat last year’s gauntlet of away games to kick off the 2017-18 campaign. And, with Boston’s plethora of new pieces, the schedule buffer may also allow Brad Stevens and his assistant coaches to work their lineup magic with less pressure.
These changes also mean that while Isaiah Thomas and Company rest their legs before those big national games, so too will the Steph Curry and Kevin Durants, the Lebron James and Kyrie Irvings (maybe?), and other star-filled teams across the league.
Players and teams have long sought relief from back-to-backs and rough road trips. The Spurs took the lead on resting stars years ago in spite of the expectant fans.
The discussion around teams handing out DNPs to top players reached a head last spring, when the Warriors and Spurs rested their stars for a Saturday game on ABC, with the Cavaliers following suit for a matchup with the Clippers a week later. Adam Silver fired a warning shot of a memo across the bows of these teams in a statement obtained by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that was widely covered thereafter.
The league’s tone, now well-removed from the incidents last spring, seems measured and empathetic.
This looks like a win-win for the Celtics, other top teams, and fans across the league.