DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Now, when it comes to pro basketball, commentator Frank Deford says the season is just too darn long.
FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Until last week the Golden State Warriors were undefeated 24 and 0. They're the popular NBA defending champs who play a fun style, led by an absolutely beguiling star, Stephen Curry. It's hard enough to draw attention away from the NFL. But the Warriors caught the public fancy going for the record of most consecutive wins ever in major league sports. Then a mediocre Milwaukee team clobbered them, and back everybody's attention went to Tom Brady, the Carolina Panthers and the point spreads of the week. But now, about that loss, the Warriors had been on the road coast-to-coast for 15 straight days playing seven road games in two countries in three different time zones, twice having back-to-back games, including the Milwaukee finale, when two of its five starters have been lost to injury and Curry was obviously dead beat. The Harlem Globetrotters wouldn't be asked to endure such a continental odyssey. If there is one thing virtually everybody involved with the NBA agrees, it is that there are way too many games. The regular season lasts from October into April, 82 games - why 82? No one really knows. It's just, let's play 82. And then the playoffs begin, all best-of-seven series, which is ridiculous in basketball when it's the same seven or eight regulars playing comfortably indoors essentially the same game over and over. It might as well be the best of 17 or the best of 27. Anyway, the season could run to June 19. No, the basketball players don't endure mass concussions like their football brethren. Nor do their arms fall off like so many baseball pitchers. But the grind on the hardwood just - just wears bodies down. Last year, most of the league's best players missed significant time. LeBron James only sat out about a sixth of the schedule. And that practically made him into a basketball Cal Ripken. Now, the only reason to play all these games is simply to make more money. But the NBA has signed monstrous new network television contracts starting next season, which will almost triple their annual TV revenue to about two and three- quarter billion a year. With this kind of money in play, the next contract negotiation would be the perfect time to say, hey, we can cut the schedule down to about 60 games and use the money from ESPN and TNT to make up for the lost box office. And the best players will actually be able-bodied, able to play all the time. And maybe the Golden State Warriors can even start a new winning streak. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web version, we incorrectly say the Golden State Warriors were undefeated until last week. They actually lost their first game on Dec. 12.]
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