x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A short and sour NBA season so far

Fans, however, are having fun despite far-from-perfect plays and players.

LeBron James, right, and the Miami Heat are looking good at what has been an erratic start to the season by the other teams.
LeBron James, right, and the Miami Heat are looking good at what has been an erratic start to the season by the other teams.

Two weeks into the NBA's delayed and condensed season, the quality of play is erratic. Too many games in too few nights have led to weary teams, weird substitution patterns and many lopsided contests.

But, somewhat surprisingly, fans have been forgiving and the overall drama is rising.

A lockout delayed the 2011/12 season by nearly two months. Training camps were cut to two weeks and two exhibition games.

The season started on December 25 and a compressed schedule saw some teams immediately play three games in as many days.

But fans have been along for the ride from the start. Television ratings are up. All tickets were sold for 25 of the league's first 32 games, compared to 19 of the first 32 last season.

They are not witnessing the best basketball the NBA has to offer, and the inconsistent play could continue.

Jeff Van Gundy, the former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach, who is a television broadcast analyst, told the Los Angeles Times that ragged games might persist until the play-offs begin, in late April, predicting "a lot of disappointing nights for a lot of teams and most of it is unavoidable because of the schedule plus lack of preparation in the pre-season".

He said: "Only when the season gets to the play-offs will there be any return to normality, as far as play. Right now, you play five games in six nights and six games in eight nights and the human body can only take so much."

The players cannot complain; they signed off on the plan to play 66 games in 124 days to maximise their earnings.

Still, performances are suffering. Collectively, NBA players are making 44.1 per cent of their field goal attempts, down from the 45.9 per cent last season. They are averaging 94.7 points per game, down from 99.6.

Storylines, however, are not lacking, and fans seem eager to follow.

The Miami Heat have hit the ground running, and LeBron James seems determined to win his first championship. The Knicks are finally of interest outside New York.

The Clippers have added Chris Paul and Chauncey Billips to the reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin and, for the first time, are battling the ageing Lakers for supremacy in Los Angeles.

The Dallas Mavericks, the champions, are struggling, and it remains unclear whether the San Antonio Spurs can make one last title run.

Are the Portland Trail Blazers for real? Can the Chicago Bulls beat the Heat and win a championship?

It all is unfolding quickly, and it somehow seems more interesting than a year ago.

sports@thenational.ae