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NBA AM: More Rest For The Weary, The 2018 Schedule

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Over the past few years, the topic of players resting during the regular season has continued to become a divisive subject among followers of the sport. Some fans argue players resting dilutes the league’s product while those on the other side of the fence believe well-rested players enhance the game in the long run.

Make no mistake, the NBA’s 82-game regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. The regular season is a maker of men and with the advancement of technology and deeper studies into sports science, there have been findings that well-timed rest can prolong an athlete’s career.

It appears the league is ready to provide a solution to the ongoing trend.

According to ESPN, a memo released to teams this week outlined how the league is planning to alleviate tougher portions of the schedule in order to reduce the number of games healthy players are held out of the lineup.

Here are some of the outlined improvements, according to the report:

  • Eliminating stretches of four games in five days and 18 games in 30 days.
  • Reduction of five games in seven nights to just 40 instances across (1.3 per team), down from last year when it was on the schedule 90 times (three per team).
  • Reduction in the number of back-to-backs to 14.9 per team, down from 16.3 per team. In all, 40 back-to-backs have been eliminated from last season.
  • Reduction of single-game road trips by 17 percent.
  • Reduction in single-game road trips over 2,000 miles by 67 percent; there are only 11 of them on schedule.
  • Increase in weekend games from 549 to 568, much of the boost coming on Saturdays. Previously the NBA avoided Saturdays and Sunday afternoons during football season to dodge conflicts.

We’re still likely a couple of weeks away from the actual release of the NBA schedule, but the reduction of back-to-back games and the increase of weekend games has helped the league alleviate some of the more rigid aspects of the season.

The question is will these changes be enough on their own merit to spark a change in philosophy from organizations around the league, or will those franchises continue to march to the beat of their own respective drums?

Jahlil Okafor Content in Philly

People generally laugh off superstitious beliefs such as the proverbial “sophomore jinx,” but in the case of Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor, year two in the league was a forgettable experience.

Okafor, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2015 draft, suffered through a tumultuous campaign last season averaging 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists on 51 percent shooting from the floor in 50 contests.

Those numbers pale in comparison to Okafor’s rookie season where the former Duke University standout averaged 17.5 points, seven rebounds and 1.2 assists on 51 percent shooting in 53 games.

At one point, Okafor was considered one of Philadelphia’s foundational building blocks. But heading into this season, there are some that feel the center is potentially the odd man out in the Sixers’ long time plans.

The theory isn’t without legs.

Philadelphia already features a wealth of depth and talent in the frontcourt with emerging center Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson, so finding time in the nightly rotation will be a challenge of Okafor moving forward.

With a potential logjam for playing time, the trade rumors surrounding Okafor may begin to creep up once gain. Okafor admits, due to the trade rumors, to thinking about playing in a different destination but is content in Philadelphia.

“I have,” Okafor told Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Towns regarding thinking about the trade rumors. “I hear trade rumors and stuff like that. I realize that having a new scenario, you think it might be better than it is right now. But when it comes to the NBA, all I know is wearing a Sixers uniform. … I couldn’t be happier.”

According to the report, Okafor has slimmed down 10 pounds this summer mostly from a change in eating habits and dabbling into living a vegan lifestyle.

It is clear Okafor wants to put the “sophomore jinx” into the past.

“I’ve been playing basketball my entire life and I’ve been really successful with that,” Okafor said. “Last year was a different year for me — something I wasn’t accustomed to — but I’m better because of it.”

Now entering his third year, Okafor will have an opportunity to prove that to be true.

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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons