The NBA has insisted it doesn’t have an injury problem this season, but it’s hard not to look at the condensed second half schedule many teams are playing in which there are far more back-to-backs and three games in four night stretches than there have been in recent years and not at least wonder if it’s contributing to the soft tissue injuries we’ve been seeing.
The league has been combatting sports science in recent years as they’ve instituted fines for resting players, particularly for road games and national TV games, as teams and players take a much longer view towards health and have recognized that punting on a few games in the regular season is worth it if it means players are in better shape for the playoffs. This season, even teams without title hopes are taking a long view and recognizing that this season isn’t worth running players into the ground, and are trying to rest guys on back-to-backs and balance the workload being asked of them.
This weekend, the Spurs had a Portland to Phoenix road back-to-back and after losing a heartbreaker to the Blazers they arrived to face the red-hot, full strength Suns and put DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and Patty Mills on the sidelines. That didn’t matter as they blew out the Suns, 111-85, in a rather stunning performance as youngsters like Devin Vassell and Drew Eubanks had big games. Still, despite dominating one of the league’s best teams, the Spurs still got slapped with a $25,000 fine for resting players on Sunday.
The following has been released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/jfwihpZgGu
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 18, 2021
Now, $25,000 for an NBA franchise is nothing, but it seems like the league should institute some kind of policy where they don’t fine teams who rest players and win. If you can sit three of your top guys and still win, that feels deserving of, at the very least, a reward in not getting fined. The alternative is, if you must fine them, also fine the team that loses to them out of principle.
The real answer is, at the very least in this crazy, condensed season, the NBA probably should’ve just gotten rid of their resting policies and let teams do what they feel is best for the health of their players. The optics are pretty terrible in the midst of a number of top players already being out with real injuries, and the league could’ve salvaged a little positive PR by just not fining teams for trying to keep players healthy.