With every day that passes, it appears more and more likely that, at the very least, the 2011-12 NBA season will have to be shortened as a consequence of the lockout. Earlier this week, Russ Bengtson suggested a proposal in anticipation of this:
The NBA should play an 82-game season on the same schedule as the negotiating -- nothing for months, then 82 games in two weeks.
I would be in favor of this. In fact, any kind of alternate schedule could be interesting in its own way. I have taken the liberty of drawing up a series of schedule formats, each one specifically tailored to account for how much the season is shortened. NBA personnel, please print the following and post them near all stadium exits:
If the season is shortened to four months: reduce to a 54-game schedule. This would result in a compressed schedule that would require each team to play a game roughly every other day. While such a schedule would be quite taxing, sacrifices must be made in order to salvage as much revenue in the way of ticket sales as possible.
If the season is shortened to three months: reduce to a 42-game schedule. Draw up the schedule such that teams play only their regional neighborhood, so as to mitigate the time expense of air travel.
If the season is shortened to two months: reduce to a 30-game schedule. With so few games to be played, the league must anticipate the likelihood of teams finishing with equal records. Rather than instituting tiebreaking procedures that tend to alienate fans, the league should allow for one-game playoffs if necessary.
If the season is shortened to one month: reduce to a 20-game schedule. Disregard "strength of schedule" concerns. Consult mathematics departments at top universities to determine an optimal schedule that minimizes travel distance as much as possible.
If the season is shortened to two weeks: have all 30 teams gather in a central, neutral location, such as the Yum! Center in Louisville or the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Allow two slots for international teams in order to ensure exactly 32 teams.
Divide them into eight groups of four and have them play one another in a "group stage," similar to that of the World Cup. The top two teams in each group will then be seeded into a 16-team single-elimination bracket. This would necessitate precisely 63 games, which would require games to be played in the arena non-stop, every day, from roughly 9:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night.
If the season is shortened to one week: Temporarily expel the 14 teams with the worst 2010-11 records from the league. Allow a single-round expansion draft, by which the remaining 16 teams can claim a player from the 14 expelled teams. Play a single-elimination, single-game, 16-team postseason.
If the season is shortened to one day: Gather all teams in a single arena. Have them play a single-elimination tournament of half-court basketball, first to 24, must win by four points. "Make it, take it rules" are to be enforced for the sake of expedience.
If the season is shortened to six hours: Reserve three hours for a three-point shootaround, through which the league shall determine the top two teams. Reserve the other three hours for a one-game NBA Championship. Advise television networks from producing season retrospective segments, as they would largely be comprised of players taking basketballs out of barrels and shooting them.
If the season is shortened to three hours: Assemble an enormous database detailing the location of every single basketball goal in the United States. Use an algorithm to randomly select one of said basketball goals. Simultaneously announce the location of this goal to every team in the league. Whoever can reach this goal and score the most points with it within a three-hour time allotment will be named champion.
If the season is shortened to 30 minutes: Award the NBA Championship to the Blazers. They seem pretty good.
If the season is shortened to 10 minutes: Single-game NBA Jam playoff.
If the season is shortened to two minutes: Competitive Minesweeper.
If the season is shortened to 30 seconds: award the NBA Championship to the team of the first player to successfully shoot something into anything else. Coffee cup into a trash can. Dish rag into a sink. Pebble into a lake. Whatever.
If the season is shortened to 5 seconds: Via conference call, a blitz-speed round of "not it."
If the season is shortened to one second: really really really incredibly really fast game of Shaq Fu.