A couple of weeks ago the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs were scheduled to play a primetime game on ABC. It was highly anticipated because they were the two best teams in the NBA. The Warriors have the back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry. However, coach Steve Kerr decided to rest him along with his starting teammates Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. The game ended up looking like a D-League game. Last week’s NBA primetime game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers was similar in viewership. This was due to Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love sitting out the game due to rest. Two straight weekends prompted NBA commissioner Adam Silver to send a memo to all teams that the decision to rest players is “an extremely significant issue for our league” and threatening “significant penalties” in the future if the practice is continued. He also stated that this issue would be a major topic of discussion at the next NBA board of governors meeting in New York on April 6th. He went on to say, “I’m sympathetic to fans who turn out — whether they buy tickets to games or watching games on television and don’t see their favorite player on the floor. I think that’s a core responsibility of the team and I think it’s a very slippery slope for the league office to start getting in the business of telling a coach or team what minutes a player should play.”
Kerr responded to Silver’s comments by saying, “You can see our guys are fresher, their legs. So what can we all do, together? And I think that’s where Adam is really good in terms of taking a lot of opinions and finding solutions. This is not a right or wrong issue. It’s what can we do to best serve the league, best serve the player’s health. Is there a compromise? We’re already working on that by extending the season next year by 7-10 days. I think that’s going to be very helpful and I think the broadcast partners and the league can pay closer attention to the schedule when it comes out next year as they put that together.”
James took Silver’s comments more personal, “I just know the conversation gets a little bit more talked about when I’m a part of it. If it’s somebody else, it gets blown up briefly, it gets talked about a little bit, but it doesn’t have legs and it’s gone. But as soon as I’m involved it’s just a whole different situation.” I don’t think that’s the case. Again, I believe it’s because this is the second straight week this has happened. Also, you had all of the Cavaliers All-stars resting. Had it only been James resting and not Irving and Love, it would not have been such a big deal. James went on to mention that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (Pop) does it. He said, “Listen, Pop’s been doing this for 10 years, 12 years, 15 years and everybody was like, ‘You know what that’s the smartest thing Pop has ever done. Give his guys a couple of games off and here they go with five championships. It’s the smartest thing.’”
It is true that Pop has been applauded for resting his players and managing them similar to a baseball manager. It must be noted that the Spurs are viewed as a TEAM and they don’t have anyone that is viewed as megastar that would command a sold out crowd. Also, Pop rested all his stars on only one occasion. He rested Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, and Tony Parker in 2012 verse the Miami Heat. He sent them home for that road game, and was fined $250,000 by the league. In regards this new memo by Silver, Pop said, “I would do the same thing if I was in [Silver’s] shoes. But I think that just because we’re coaches and GMs doesn’t mean we don’t understand or know what’s going on with the business side. We have definitely added years to people. So it’s a trade-off. You want to see this guy in this one game? Or do you want to see him for three more years in his career? And do you want to see him in the playoffs because he didn’t get hurt because maybe he got rest and he was playing so much.”
What about former players? Karl Malone said, “If you don’t have at least 10 years’ experience, get your [butt] playing. It’s not work — it’s called playing. Besides, tell our underpaid service members and police and first responders to rest. They can’t.” Mychal Thompson, father of Klay Thompson, said, “I don’t like it. Playing 82 games is not hard. The games are easy. It’s what you do between games that wears you out. You do that by going home between games and getting your rest, taking care of your body. You do that by eating properly, watching your alcohol intake.” He offered this suggestion, “Here’s how I would treat my franchise players: You give me 35-38 minutes every night. Tell you what, the day off, you don’t have to come to practice the next day if you don’t want.” Then there was the outspoken Charles Barkley. “I’ve been in the NBA for over 30 years and all of the sudden now with better shoes, private jets, all this stuff they got, now all of the sudden they worried about getting hurt. I think it’s a joke, especially when you’re screwing your TV partners. Just for the record, we’re the reason they make $10, 20, 30 million – TV. No disrespect to the fans, but the reason players make $10, 20, 30 million is because of the TV partners – ESPN and us at Turner. Yo man, Bill Russell played in Converse. He had a long career. Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward ever, played 20 years basically and he went to college for 4 years. You look at Michael [Jordan] he went to college for 3 years, he never got hurt. This is ridiculous, man. Listen, I hope at some point the fans get together and say, ‘You know what we’re gonna do? We’re not gonna go to any games for a week and we’re not gonna watch any games on television for a week. I think if the fans hit back, it’d be great.’”
Barkley is alluding to how different the league is now. Players don’t have the same mentality and heart that the players before them had. Players before the last decade, had to be truly hurt or clinched their division to rest. Some would play less minutes in a game and obtain rest that way. I think that is one way to rest players now. Coaches could rest one starter on a night during the week that isn’t televised. I agree with Thompson on resting your franchise star by allowing him to come later to practice on back-to-back nights. I just hope it doesn’t come to fans resting their dollars to force these teams to decide how to rest or not.