NBA: Resting Players Controversy

As the long and grueling NBA season begins to come to a close in 2017, some teams with playoff hopes have decided to think long term. The decision to rest superstar players for regular season games has caused controversy, both with the league and with its fans.

Currently, 30 teams within the NBA compete in an 82 game regular season, which takes place over the course of 169 days (not including playoffs). However, the league met on April 6th in New York to discuss spreading the games out over a longer period of time for the 2017- 2018 season. This possible future league mandate stems from numerous complaints from teams and individual players who agree that the season takes a heavy physical and mental toll on the players.

To start the 2016-2017 campaign the San Antonio Spurs played their first 4 games in 6 nights. The Golden State Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, responded to media outlets saying the schedule is “insane”, when addressing that the Warriors played eight games in eight different cities over the span of 13 nights. The Spurs and the Warriors aren’t the only teams that experience the grueling NBA schedule. In fact, every team frequently travels across the country, competing in multitude of back-to-back games. This busy schedule forces trainers and coaches to rest players down the stretch of the season.

Gregg Popovich, the 5x NBA Champion and 3x NBA coach of the year who started this movement, stands firmly behind the practice of ‘resting’ key players. Popovich noted to Express-News, “So, it’s a tradeoff: Do you want to see this guy in this one game or do you want to see them for three more years of his career? And do you want to see him through the playoffs because he didn’t get hurt?” The Cleveland Cavaliers have also recently joined in on the practice by resting key players, since the team looks to make a deep playoff run. Star player Lebron James stated, “And it’s a long, strenuous season and the NBA does a great job of putting the schedule together as best as they can. You’re going to have back-to-backs. You’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights, but a coach’s job is to figure out a way for their team to compete for a championship, not compete for a game.” Lebron James has played in the last 6 NBA Finals, enduring a total of 1,056 career games since 2003. Other professional sports such as the National Hockey League also look to extend the season and shorten the preseason in order to allot more off-days for its athletes. Players like Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, similarly to Lebron James, have made the playoffs almost every year since being in the league and the argument can certainly be made that the grind of the season takes years away from players’ careers.

However, when looking at the other end of the spectrum, one must recognize a few important points. First, the National Basketball Association is a business that specializes in entertainment. Games are televised nationally by TNT and ESPN, and when teams allow players to rest, ratings and sponsorships of business partners are impacted in a negative manner. Next, the fans of the NBA become extremely disappointed when they pay money to see Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, or Lebron James, and other all-stars. Teams opposing those who rest starting players also interpret the tactic as a sign of disrespect or superiority. Although, the intention of disrespect lacks opposing teams still take the lineup otherwise. All in all, the NBA will hope to resolve this issue, as it has caused controversy recently.