This is not a tiny violin column. NBA players are paid millions of dollars per year on average, and they get to choose what they do with their offseason – an offseason that can range for over five months for those whose teams fail to make the playoffs. Every year they are given a brief All-Star “break,” a time that also includes some of the more talented of the league’s players heading to a (usually) warmer destination spot. Those players are flown first class, they stay at five star hotels, and they perform in exhibition events for which they are compensated.
We’re not busting out the tiny violin for these players. What we are busting out is the 100-watt Marshall stack, fuzzed-out pedal board, and duel humbucker guitar for the fans that follow these players. The All-Star break is fun, but it’s hardly a break. Its combination of charity events, televised exhibition contests, meetings, and all manner of promotional showings (to say nothing of the parties) that does little to rest the league’s marquee or secondary stars. And that’s not even getting into the vacation the non-stars have to try to cram into during what is sometimes a three-day weekend before practice starts up again on Monday.
This is why NBA commissioner Adam Silver, according to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, is considering extending the break. From Steve’s column, in reference to Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Chris Paul:
Paul’s hectic Thursday schedule — arriving in the Big Easy at 5 a.m. after his Los Angeles Clippers’ game against Portland Wednesday night at Staples Center — was just a sample of what he faces over what essentially is a five-day commitment. Keep in mind, Paul also is the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, so he has a meeting to run Saturday afternoon squeezed in between all the basketball, commercial and charity events. Add travel time at both ends and it’s a grind.
“I definitely think it’s something that should happen,” Paul told NBA.com while attending a pep rally and press conference at a New Orleans grade school, where he was inducted into the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation ambassador program.
Paul said he spoke with Silver about the possibility of a longer All-Star break.
“Obviously All-Star Weekend is all about the fans and showcasing our game to the entire world, but it would be nice to get a little break,” the Clippers guard said. “Not saying the all stars are unhappy or ungrateful for being all stars, but to enjoy your family for a couple days would be nice.”
Paul, as Aschburner noted, has a direct line to Silver’s office as President of the NBPA. Other All-Stars, like Paul’s teammate Blake Griffin, have to go the media route:
Here at NBA ASG Blake Griffin has some advice for new commissioner Adam Silver: "Extend All-Star break a little" so more rest for players
— Bill Reiter (@foxsportsreiter) February 14, 2014
It is time to extend the All-Star break, even if it means starting the NBA season earlier in October, just after the NHL season starts their run. Most of the player participants in this weekend’s festivities have already filled their Friday with league-mandated appearances at both media sessions and (very cool, we’re not criticizing this) charity get-togethers. The league and its players will do the same thing on Saturday prior to that night’s televised exhibitions, before everyone heads to party on Saturday night and hope that their hangovers have taken leave by the time Sunday night’s All-Star Game starts up. Then it’s back to practice on Monday, and back to the same routine of games on Tuesday.
Extending the All-Star break shouldn’t be just to give the All-Stars an actual break, though. There will be 47 different players taking part in the competitions that run from Friday to Sunday, but the league needs to think of the 400-some other NBA players that it asks to play at peak form from autumn until spring and sometimes summer.
If the NBA is going to start it’s training camp in the first days of October, toss its players all around the world for a too-long exhibition season, engage in an 82-game regular season featuring so much travel that coaches rarely have the time to schedule practices, and spark up a two-month long postseason, then it needs to find a way to ensure these players have a proper break at some point in the season.
Again, this isn’t for the players – players that are allowed to rest their bones in the summer sun after every season. This is for the fans – fans that might pay big money for one game a year to watch in attendance, only to watch their favorite player looked gassed on the second night of a back to back, his first game back from a long road trip, or his fourth game in five nights.
This is for the fans that want to watch a Finals played expertly by both stars and role players in mid-to-late June, some eight and a half months and possibly 110 games (as was the case with the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat last year) after the exhibition season started. An exhibition season that is often chock full of games played on foreign soil, as the NBA continues its worldwide marketing machine.
We’re not killing the NBA for overusing players – these guys are compensated quite a bit – and we’re not trying to trash the non-All-Stars for jetting down to Rio or some other sunny spot during this quick long weekend. And according to Aschburner’s column, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the extended break “seems like a very fair request” and that it was “something we should address.”
I agree. The news cycle for major pro sports is nearing 12 months anyway, as it is, so an extra week or two added into the NBA’s schedule in October wouldn’t be hurting anything.
Especially if it makes for a better product, come May and June.
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