Strange Preseason Schedules, Featuring the Timberwolves

The Wolves play in Cedar Rapids tonight! Finally, we get to watch them pl... what's that? It's not on TV?!? Dang it!
The Wolves play in Cedar Rapids tonight! Finally, we get to watch them pl… what’s that? It’s not on TV?!? Dang it!

So, it’s probably not something to get up in arms about or anything, but most NBA preseason schedules don’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s odd that they don’t make a whole lot of sense, because as far as I can tell, teams are in charge of making their own exhibition schedules, with very little oversight from the league other than “play between six and eight games.”

Thanks to this interesting SF Gate story from a few days ago, I understand that the nuts and bolts of creating a slate of games is a more cumbersome task than many people realize. Among the factors to consider: handshake agreements with other teams who you’ve “traded” home dates with, whether or not the arena where you’d like to play is actually available, geography, travel, and pleasing players and coaches with days off in desirable locales (like Santa Monica or South Beach) rather than less desirable ones (like, Iowa, or something). 

But still… the Wolves play tonight after having six games off, and between now and the end of the preseason, they play 5 games in 8 nights. Granted, they have 18 guys on the roster and all of them can dress for each contest, so Flip Saunders will have plenty of options to give guys rest if they need it, but… but why not space them out a bit better? Play a second game in a peripheral market like Fargo or Sioux Falls or Duluth, or something? Minnesota’s played just two games thus far. By comparison, Boston has played six, and Washington, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Denver have played five apiece.

This isn’t a sharp criticism of the Wolves front office management, or anything. They’re far from the only teams having scheduling issues. The Clippers, for instance have three (THREE) sets of back-to-backs this preseason. Boston, Chicago and Dallas have two apiece. Both Houston and Orlando have just three off days between their final exhibition game and their openers.

A few teams do have it figured out. Atlanta, Denver, Indiana, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Toronto and Washington don’t play any back-to-backs. Brooklyn and Sacramento are traveling to China for a pair of games, but managed to work around the extra travel and promotional duties to ensure balanced preseason schedules. The Knicks’ road games are in Boston, Philly and Toronto. The Spurs spent nearly a week in Europe, returned home and ensured a little extra rest time by sending a bunch of Make-a-Wish kids coached by a local drunk to play their scheduled game in Phoenix. (At least, that’s what Robert Sarver told me.)

Supposedly when you’re good, or pull in solid numbers at the gate, scheduling the preseason becomes easier. Hopefully the Wolves are able to enjoy such luxury in the near future. The hunger for NBA basketball is growing, and the league as a whole is experimenting with new ways to make the game more accessible to fans.

But really, this long layoff has been tough on bloggers. Coming up with content during a weeklong preseason layoff is difficult. We’re the real victims, here.

Help us out, Timberwolves, and keep things a bit more regular in the future. Oh, and since I’m acting like a brat and asking for things I have no real right to ask, televise all the games, too. Much obliged.

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1 thought on “Strange Preseason Schedules, Featuring the Timberwolves

  1. I think the schedule made sense for this year. Few games early meant lots of time to practice. Normally, whatever, but this year with a ton of new faces and a new coaching staff that can only be a good thing. Lots of opportunities to teach the young kids how to actually play basketball and stuff. Then lots of games late where people are fighting for roster spots, playing time, and to stay out of the D-League when nobody has the excuse of being rusty.

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