May 7, 2009 at 1:00 am

Chris McCosky

Shorter schedule? Forget about that

The NBA season is too long; that's a universally accepted truth. A month of camp, eight preseason games, an 82-game regular season that runs October through April, followed by another eight weeks or so of postseason -- it's just too much.

Yet, here is another universally accepted truth -- it's never going to change.

As commissioner David Stern has said repeatedly -- since this issue comes up every year -- any reduction in number of games played would have huge economic consequences on the league's revenue stream.

And in these rough economic times, he's not about to mess with revenue streams.

"Is it good for our season to run from October to the end of June? Our sponsors and licensees would say yes," Stern said in an interview with USA Today.

"Is it good to be the leading sport after the NCAAs are done? I think the answer is evident.

"And if you say June is too late for basketball, I can tell you this: Those cities in the Finals would happily play into August."

There's a catch

But here's the rub: What if the elongated season and the physical toll it takes on the game's best players is weakening the product? It is.

All you have to do is go back and look at the list of players with season-long injuries the past two seasons.

"You look at some guys, after they are done playing they can barely walk," Boston's Paul Pierce told USA Today.

And it's not just injuries.

The overload manifests itself in too many low-energy performances throughout the season.

You wonder if there can be some give and take here.

The current collective bargaining agreement will expire after the 2010 season (unless an extension is agreed to by Dec. 15, 2010, which is not expected). The players might use length of season as a bargaining tool.

"Owners and players have to be willing to put on the discussion table any number of things that would allow the business to continue to be successful and grow," said Lakers guard Derek Fisher, president of the players association. "Fewer games or more games, adjustments in years or salaries, we're going to have to be willing to negotiate."

The question is, would players give back a percentage of salary to correspond with the loss of revenues caused by shrinking the schedule.

"I'd give some of my check back," Boston's Ray Allen told USA Today. "And I venture to say the quality of the games would go up another notch."

Others would not.

"If they cut the games by a quarter, they'll cut the salaries by a quarter," Elton Brand said. "If that's the case, I'll pass."

A common point?

One compromise that is almost certain to be on the negotiating table is to cut the number of preseason games in half and the amount of back-to-back games in the regular season. The problem with cutting back-to-backs is that it would affect television schedules. Stern and the league are married to their high-paying TV partners (ESPN, TNT and ABC).

Allen offered one suggestion:

"You know how the NFL has a bye week?" he said. "I'd give the league a bye week around All-Star weekend."

By the numbers

1-14 Hawks record in last 15 road playoff games.

124 Number of playoff games played by Denver's Chauncey Billups, more than 10 of his 13 teammates.

6.99M Number of people who watched Game 7 of the Chicago-Boston series on TNT, the most-watched first round playoff game in cable television history.

Coaching clout

The top five winningest coaches in NBA playoff history:

Coach No
Phil Jackson197
Pat Riley171
Gregg Popovich102
Larry Brown100
Red Auerbach99

Prospect watch

The top 10 prospects as judged by ESPN.com's draft expert Chad Ford (draft is June 25):

Player Ht. Pos. School/Country
Blake Griffin6-10PFOklahoma
Ricky Rubio6-4PGSpain
Hasheem Thabeet7-3CConnecticut
James Harden6-4SGArizona State
Jordan Hill6-9PFArizona
DeMar DeRozen6-6SGUSC
Tyreke Evans6-6SGMemphis
Stephen Curry6-3PGDavidson
Brandon Jennings6-2PGItaly
James Johnson6-9PFWake Forest

chris.mccosky@detnews.com">chris.mccosky@detnews.com (313) 222-1489

Paul Pierce of the Celtics, grabbing his leg after being fouled in a ... (Elsa/Getty Images)