Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The NBA's Rest Problem

With NBA teams valuing their players' health more and more as time goes on, it's no surprise that teams have realized resting players during one of the back-to-back games is not only good for their health but their teams long term winning as well. Playing basketball is hard on anyone's joints, but especially someone who is well over 6 feet tall.

Teams have been resting their star players during nationally televised broadcasts, though, which has angered the NBA, the networks, and many ESPN talking heads. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to league owners expressing concern and warning them that fines will come in the future.

That seems impossible to legislate and nothing more than an open threat, but who knows.

Personally, I don't have an issue with the rest. Any real NBA fan knows that a Warriors-Cavs matchup in early March doesn't have the same buzz an NBA finals game would. ESPN may say over and over that it "has a Finals feel" or something stupid like that, but the fact is a regular season game between two teams that are guaranteed to make the playoffs has little value. If LeBron James tears his ACL playing in the second game of a back-to-back in March, the NBA Finals ratings are going to plummet. He's the Michael Jordan of this generation. To basically demand that players don't rest, or that teams give "advanced notice" as Silver put it, is ridiculous.

John Buccigross has been obsessed with the "they get to fly on luxury airliners and stay in hotel suites" argument as if that has any bearing on them playing basketball two nights in a row. It's their joints that are sore, John, and it's not from a hotel bed or a flight. He also suggested that the fans make the game what it is and that they are the main reason players make so much money. He's not wrong; but he is wrong to assume it bothers every fan. I'm incredibly tired of hearing about some hypothetical parent spending "their hard earned money" to go to a basketball game where the star player isn't playing. Sure, that sucks, but if it happens it's a very small percentage of fans. A key star getting hurt because of poor NBA scheduling is going to hurt the league far more than a few angry fans and network talking heads.

 Seeing former NBA players who can barely walk suggest that today's players shouldn't take days off is maddening, since it's clear those players would have benefited greatly later in life by BEING ABLE TO WALK.

The best argument that's been made against the commissioner is a simple one; if you want the best players to play in the marquee games, don't schedule those games on the front or back end of a back-to-back. NBA basketball is played indoors. The NBA playoffs are stretched out for what seems like six months to ensure every game is nationally televised. If Adam Silver is concerned about player's resting too much, simply extend the season another two weeks, basically giving teams an extra day off every week. The NBA currently plans to extend the season by 7-10 days next season, which is a good start. A two week extension would allow the NBA schedule to avoid most if not all back-to-back games, and would almost instantly solve the rest issue, so 7-10 days is a step in the right direction.

Adam Silver has done a very good job since taking over from David Stern, and I expect him to handle this well eventually also. However, the memo he sent out was a big misstep. The goal is to win a championship, and ABC getting stuck with bad ratings on a Saturday night shouldn't result in a memo from the commissioner telling team owners to dictate who plays and when.



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