Part II of the Jeff Van Gundy interview from Monday's media teleconference focused on the compacted 66-game schedule. I asked him about the challenges facing Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, particularly in handling a mostly veteran roster and especially a point guard, Jason Kidd, that will turn 39 during a particularly brutal stretch of March.
Van Gundy was coach of the New York Knicks during the lockout-out shortened 1998-99 season. His club finished the regular season eighth in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the NBA Finals, eventually losing to the San Antonio Spurs, who got a big shot from the corner from a smallish guard named Avery Johnson.
Van Gundy, though, didn't stick to the script of talking about the rapid-fire schedule. No, he used it as a platform to rail on the NBA for starting free agency and training camps on the same day, basically assuring that teams wouldn't have their full rosters completed for several days into training camp, and for rushing to start the season on Christmas Day, less than two weeks from when the majority of teams would have a full roster.
Here's Van Gundy's take:
Think about it, we’re less than two weeks from playing and people are saying, "Who’s on my team?" This absolute hurry for this cut-off day of Christmas Day, it’s absurd. I’m thinking to myself, they should have just played all 82 games and just played day-night doubleheaders. No, seriously, like why not? Let’s just call it what it is, a total money grab, and let’s just get it all in. Let’s make the fans stay there for like 10 hours and watch two games.
But, I think Rick will do what’s in his best interests, or the team’s best interests, and they rested Kidd at times last year as well, but they could do that because they had quality behind him. You can’t play people in games and try to win and have homecourt advantage -- they had the first and third rounds with homecourt advantage [last postseason] -- so you want to have as much homecourt advantage as you can, but you also have to have your team healthy and energetic for the playoffs. He’ll tiptoe around it like he did last year. I thought he did a marvelous job last year.
Van Gundy and ESPN broadcast partner Mike Breen will be at the American Airlines Center on Christmas Day for the Mavs' season-opener against the Miami Heat. Both participated in a media teleconference on Monday.