Adam Silver has consistently entertained and sometimes implemented new ideas to improve the NBA product, among them revamping the All-Star Game and shortening the preseason to start the regular season earlier.
The league is exploring more ambitious plans for its 75th anniversary season in 2021-22, and according to reporting from ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, a group of about a dozen executives from around the NBA hopped on a conference call on June 17 to discuss some of these initiatives. They include a midseason tournament, a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds, and reducing the length of the regular season.
Both of these tournaments have been mentioned before, as has the idea of shortening the 82-game season. However, this is perhaps the first instance that 58 has been suggested as the ideal number of regular season games. Such a format is reminiscent of European soccer leagues, as each team would play all 29 other teams twice, once at home and once on the road. That would remove essentially all schedule imbalances and allow each team to play twice a week during the regular season, hopefully ending the practice of load management.
Decreasing the number of regular season games so significantly would also enable the NBA to find time during the middle of the season to schedule other tournaments, again harkening back to the European soccer model.
However, 58 games was simply the lower end suggestion and other executives proposed a more modest lessening of the regular-season schedule. As Arnovitz reports:
“According to sources on the call, the appetite among team officials for a major reduction in the number of games was limited.”
The league has been adaptable during Silver’s tenure, but the 82-game schedule still has a lot of backers due to its historic significance and extra gate revenue for home games. If the NBA could promise teams additional revenue streams from these added tournaments and other plans, there might be a conversation to be had, but as it stands, the fair and logical 58-game schedule is probably just a pipe dream.