Matinees? Or Matin-yeas!?

Good thing NFL players don’t feel about weekend matinee games the way many NBA players do, or that “on any Sunday” league would have a real problem on its hands.

Afternoon tipoffs are nothing new on the NBA scene – they’re everywhere on holidays such as Christmas and Dr. Martin Luther King Day – and in fact, they date back to a series of early TV broadcasts by the DuMont Network in 1953-54, when the league put together a series of 13 Saturday matinees.

The word itself is a variation on matin, a French term for morning. Broadway has a history of daytime performances that stretches back to the 19th century, initially scheduled – as one theater operator explained in an old Chicago Tribune feature – for “those who don’t want to stay up at night and those who aren’t allowed to stay up at night.”

Baseball and football traditionally played their games in daylight hours out of necessity, until first electricity, then TV revenues sent them chasing after the evening demographics and ratings. College hoops still has plenty of day games, but the practice remains more exception than rule in the NBA. And like any sort of departure from the norm, maybe that’s why matinees aren’t particularly popular with NBA players.

Of the eight matinees on the NBA schedule so far in 2012-13, five were played this weekend, including a Raptors-Celtics game at TD Garden Saturday that, via, prompted analysis from Boston coach Doc Rivers:

“As a coach, I love them — not because of the game, because it gives you a ton of time after the game to prepare for the next game,” said Rivers, whose squad travels to Detroit after the game to play the Pistons on Sunday. “But as a player, I never liked them. They just come too quick. Most players are creatures of habit. And it just takes you out of your routine. I think this is our only one this year, so that’s the good news.”

Back in Rivers’ playing days, matinee games were hardly a rarity.

“We had tons of them,” Rivers said. “I never liked them, but we had a lot of them. You always thought — during an afternoon game as a player — if you’re playing great, then you loved it that day. But if you’re playing poorly, you thought it was very difficult to pull yourself out of it. You haven’t had your normal mental preparation to get ready for a game. It felt like when you start struggling in an early game, you couldn’t just pull yourself out of it.”

Most average Joes and Janes don’t like it when their work schedules change from day to day or week to week. Then again, a lot of Joes and Janes are appreciative of having work schedules, period, and wouldn’t whine about something as minor as the time their shifts start. The overall record of teams that play matinees, after all, is .500, same as any other start time.

NFL players and coaches grumble about the short weeks and broken routines that come from appearances on Thursday, Sunday and Monday night telecasts. Baseball players have had to navigate an increasing number of day/night doubleheaders when rainouts get made up for maximum gate receipts.

The Knicks, who beat Indiana Sunday at Madison Square Garden, have 10 afternoon home games on their schedule. Rivers’ Celtics play five this season and are 11-4 over the last two-plus seasons on weekend afternoons, despite some veterans like Kevin Garnett who can get ornery about disruptions and early wake-up calls.

The Clippers are used to them from day/night doubleheaders at Staples Center, though the NHL lockout allowed their game against Chicago Saturday to be rebooked with an evening tipoff. Toronto split its pair of matinees this weekend, losing at Boston, then winning at home vs. Orlando Sunday, and its coach Dwane Casey likes not waiting and “worrying all day” when he and his team could be playing.

Still, lethargy can be an issue for players who are more creatures of habit or, for some, simply nocturnal. Lethargy also can be a problem for the fans, who frequently seem more subdued at afternoon events than they are at night.

Certainly there’s more time and maybe more incentive to get properly primed/lubricated for a later tipoff. But then there’s the pesky matter of school nights, shifting the advantage back to earlier starts. For out-of-town groups and school-related promotions, it’s hard to beat daytime.

Ready to go in the afternoon? Prefer basketball as an evening entertainment? Discuss.


  1. Marco29 says:

    As all European fans, I am in favor of this early games to have the chances of watching them live. I whish there were more, even during the playoffs.
    I think the players should be happy too as they can leave the arena earlier and not have to catch a plane at 3 or 4AM which is not ideal to rest after the game.
    Also, it is a benefit for players of USA Basketball as in the international tournaments (even the Olympics), games are often scheduled in the afternoon or even as early as 9AM.

  2. BigP says:

    I live in Ireland and I love the afternoon games! It’s my only chance to watch a matchlive. Due to the time differences most games would be on between 12AM and 3AM in the morning , the afternoon games are on around 5 or 6 PM. I think afternoon games would help increase the NBA’s footprint in Europe as people are more likely to go to the pub and watch a game when it’s on at a sociable hour.

    • Big Euro says:

      Fair point. Maybe we can open our open NBA focused pub and see what sprawls from there. The NBA telecast really works against most European fans professional schedules. I can only imagine how much more ‘marketable’ (David Stern’s fav word) the league would be to fans on this continent (Africa too) if the schedule was concomitant with sociable viewing habits.

  3. Ricardo says:

    Yeah, I guess I’m not the only european fan rooting for more afternoon matchups.
    There’s a 5 hour difference between Portugal to the East cost of the United States. Only Portugal and the U.K benefit from this time span. The rest of Europe faces a 6 hour gap. If we consider the West cost and most European countries, than we are talking of 10 hours of difference. Watching a live home game of the Lakers or Mavericks from Germany is very though, specially for employed people or students and sometimes this afternoon games are the only chance that we Europeans have to follow our teams live, without waking up in the middle of the night or forcing ourselves to spend the day after avoiding any kind of NBA related news, so that we can watch the tape of last nights game with the benefit of ignorance.
    In my case, since I just cannot stay up until 5 am to watch a live game, I have to spend the next day without going even to facebook, just to maintain myself in the dark regarding my team performance, so that I can watch the previously recorded game has God has intended us to watch basketball. Imagine how though that is during the playoffs.

  4. yoblob says:

    I live in Europe and love days like this, as I can spend the whole evening watching live basketball, instead of having to get up at 1am just for the tipoff.

  5. Big Euro says:

    Well, being in Europe I love Matinee games. Finally allows me to watch a game live rather than on PVR. I want to see more marquis matinee match-ups.

  6. Karlo Garcia says:

    I prefer afternoon BBall b/c it’ allows more time for players 2 rest. & I live in Australia so NBA games that start in noon I get up at 4am plus I’m a morning person.