Jeff Van Gundy said he mostly likes the new, elongated schedule for the NBA Finals, except for the part he does not.
“Between the first two games, I hate it,” the ABC/ESPN analyst said Tuesday about the plan, in which there will be an extra off day any time the Warriors and Cavaliers must travel, as well as an extra off day this week when they do not travel. “I think it’s too long.
“I do like it when they’re flying across the country. To give them that extra day I think is a really wise and brilliant maneuver by [commissioner] Adam Silver to try and, even though it elongates the series, give the players their best chance to play their best on this big stage.”
Hence the one day off between Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland but the two-day travel breaks between Games 2 and 3 and between Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 under the 2-2-1-1-1 format that was instituted two years ago.
So why the two off days between Games 1 and 2? TV considerations, presumably.
If the series goes seven it will begin on June 2 and end on June 19, which would tie the 1978 Finals for the most drawn-out ever.
The change was announced in September as part of the NBA’s season-long effort to build in more rest for the players. As a result, the familiar Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday format for the Finals is no more. There are games scheduled every night of the week other than Tuesday and Saturday.
“It’s a little drawn out, and I think between Games 1 and 2 they can do better,” Van Gundy said, “but I think after that it’s a really well-constructed series.”
Said fellow analyst Mark Jackson: “From a fan standpoint I think it increases or enhances the quality of basketball that will take place. It gives guys a chance to get fresh, to relax and come back the same way.
“I think it truly, at the end of the day, presents a champion.”
If the series lasts six or seven games, it figures to be a ratings hit. Game 7 of the Western Conference final Monday night averaged 15.9 million viewers, the biggest NBA audience ever on cable TV and the most-watched program in TNT’s 28-year history. The viewership peaked at 19.8 million between 11:15 and 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
There were no surprises among the three markets with the highest ratings for Game 7. They were San Francisco (30.9 percent of homes), Oklahoma City (30.0) and Cleveland (20.7).
This will be Van Gundy’s record 10th NBA Finals as a TV analyst and Mike Breen’s record 11th as a TV play-by-play man. It also is a record seventh for the full broadcast team of Breen, Van Gundy, Jackson and reporter Doris Burke.
Jackson said he is “shocked” and “stunned” that Van Gundy still is working with him in television rather than being back coaching in the NBA.
“That’s shocking to me and it will remain shocking to me as long as he’s sitting next to me,” Jackson said.
Van Gundy, meanwhile, said Jackson does not get enough credit for setting the stage during his time as the Warriors coach from 2011-14 for what has happened the past two seasons.
“Coaching-wise, what he was able to accomplish in Golden State I think unfortunately has not been given its proper due by so many,” Van Gundy said. “He built a program, started it off and unfortunately didn’t get the chance to finish it.”