It has become more and more apparent that the NBA regular season is a farce. The players rarely play hard and often sit out games to “rest.” At times, it seems like players could care less if they win or lose.
Then the playoffs arrive. You actually see some defense played. At least, in the fourth quarter. As one would expect, we see different results.
The reason the regular season seems like a farce is that the playoffs gave us a No. 7 seed (Los Angeles Lakers) and a No. 8 seed (Miami Heat) in the semifinals.
Some might call it parity that such low seeds play better in the playoffs. I say it proves that the NBA regular season has never mattered less. Between load management and the lack of defense that is played, it is clear that games from October to April aren’t held in high regard or mean anything come springtime.
If the Heat continue their winning ways against the Celtics, they will join the 1998-99 Knicks as the only No. 8 seeds to reach the NBA Finals.
The Lakers and Heat were both average teams, at best, during the regular season. They were both in the bottom third of the league in defensive rating and had losing records on the road. This was partly done by design. Heat star Jimmy Butler missed 18 games. The Lakers’ duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined to play in 111 of a possible 164 games.
It should be noted that the Lakers closed the regular season going 14-6, thanks in part to a strong trade deadline in which they added Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt. The Heat, though, didn’t show any signs of a big postseason, posting a mediocre 11-9 mark over their final 20 regular-season games.
Success from the Lakers and the Heat will likely lead to other franchises following a similar model. A model of the real season starting once the playoffs begin. Are the Heat and Lakers a preview of future unexpected playoff runs from underwhelming regular-season teams? I say yes.
It’s easy to see other teams copying the formula set by both of the teams, which is to say treat the regular season like scrimmages. Rest your stars. Don’t go all out for seeding.
Owners and coaches will likely feel the benefit of being fresh for the postseason clearly outweighs that extra home game. For teams that treat the 82-game season as they should, which means they try to win each game, there isn’t enough of a reward. One extra home game in a playoff series isn’t enough. This year, four teams pulled opening-round upsets and two lower-seeded teams advanced in the following round.
The Lakers and Heat have shown that all that really matters is getting in. Anything can happen from there. A strong regular season has never meant less.