Resting superstars is an objectively good strategic move by NBA teams. If the ultimate goal for every NBA team is to win a championship, it makes sense that coaches will want to make sure that their players are as close to 100 percent as possible by the time the postseason comes around.
Sure, fans who buy tickets to random games in February or March may not be ecstatic. But I am willing to bet that most people who fall into that category will not care that LeBron James or Stephen Curry rested against the Grizzlies on a Wednesday night during a road back-to-back if their team wins a ring.
This strategy has been in the news a lot lately, and it has taken on a number of detractors. When something like this happens, all eyes go to the commissioner. As it turns out, Adam Silver isn’t a fan of the practice, either, and he reportedly told this to owners in a memo. According to ESPN, Silver is not afraid to bring the hammer down if this practice continues.
In the memo, Silver informed teams that the issue will be a prime topic of discussion at the next NBA Board of Governors meeting April 6 in New York and warned of ”significant penalties” for teams that don’t abide by the league’s standing rules for providing ”notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest.
He states that it is unacceptable for owners to be uninvolved or defer decision-making on this topic to others in their organizations, who may not have the same awareness of the impact these decisions can have on “fans and business partners,” the reputation of the league and “perception of our game.”
The first paragraph isn’t too juicy, it just says that teams need to provide notice that players will rest once decisions are made. This ostensibly means that teams should not wait until a few hours before the game and instead should offer enough of a heads up. As for the penalties, there’s no word what this is, although a precedent may have been set when David Stern fined the Spurs a quarter of a million dollars for a “disservice to the league and our fans” when they did this in 2012.
That second paragraph is something, as Silver wants owners to be involved in this decision because he wants to have someone speak up for the fans and the league’s business partners. You may disagree with this being necessary (and I do, mostly because this should be a team-driven decision and not a fan or business partner-driven decision, because everyone needs a day off every now and then), but the real gem comes with the “reputation of the league” and “perception of our game” bits.
Basketball has been reduced to a game where legacies are defined by championships – think of the argument people always make when discussing, say, LeBron vs. Michael Jordan. The default pro-MJ point is “six rings.” The NBA has a reputation for being a league where individual legacies are judged by a team award. Why would it hurt the reputation of the league if a coach decided this is necessary to help his team in its championship run? Is anyone really burning their Warriors season tickets because Steve Kerr decided to hold four of his best players out of a game earlier this month?
This happens whenever a team takes a new approach to winning a championship. Remember when the Big 3 became a thing in Miami, how everyone said that this was going to “ruin the league” or something? The game’s reputation did not take a hit. The perception of the game of basketball did not take a hit. This is because basketball is bigger than teams doing any kind of perceived corner cutting in the pursuit of a ring. That’s all resting players is.
Please do not overreact to something so simple, Adam Silver. And if you are going to search for a solution, how about cutting down on a schedule that leads to teams feeling like they need to do this to preserve the health and wellbeing of their players?