It’s ironic that star power, the NBA’s driving force and it’s biggest advantage, is also at times it’s biggest weakness. There are only so many franchise-altering players in the league to go around, that the distribution results in Haves and Have-Nots.
A team’s chances of winning the title without at least one top-20 calibre player are slim, which means those stars are rightly treated as gold.
As such, teams have to do everything in their power to not only hold on to their stars, but prolong their longevity and keep them healthy for when it matters – the playoffs.
It’s not as if teams have just realised this, but the issue of resting stars has reached its zenith now because teams are as proactive as ever at restricting the miles on their most important players.
That’s how the NBA ends up in unfavourable situations like the ones it experienced during nationally-televised games the past two Saturdays.
Facing the San Antonio Spurs in their eighth game in 13 days, the Golden State Warriors sat out Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
One week later, the Cleveland Cavaliers followed suit by giving a night off to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first of a back-to-back.
Neither game was all that competitive, but more importantly, fans who shelled out a good amount of money for a star-filled encounter were instead resigned to watching a contest which left much to be desired.
That’s definitely a cause for concern for the NBA. Unhappy fans and unhappy television networks are bad for business because the league, at the end of the day, is a money-making endeavour. But you know what else is bad – nay, worse – for business? Injured stars and one-sided playoff series.
Injuries are mostly unpredictable, but players can’t get hurt if they’re not playing (insert Roll Safe meme).
It’s less about the risk of suffering an injury in a game though, than it is about putting additional wear and tear on bodies that already have the burden of playing a regular season, a gruelling playoffs and in many cases, an international slate in the summer.
The fans who would be upset about paying for tickets to attend a marquee match-up devoid of stars in February, would be the same people to suffer when their team is without its best player in May.
In the best interest of everyone involved – fans, media, players, franchises, the league office – the latter should be of bigger concern.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver certainly gets it. Unlike his predecessor David Stern, who fined the Spurs $250,000 four years ago for resting players against the Miami Heat in a nationally-televised game, Silver hasn’t yet handed out any penalties over the matter and seems unlikely to, unless it’s a case of a team not giving enough notice beforehand.
Instead, Silver understands that the culprit here aren’t coaches or players, but the schedule. It’ll be a cold day in hell when the NBA reduces its number of regular season games – it’s too much money for the owners and league to give up – but starting next season, the preseason will be truncated and the regular season will have an extra week for games to breathe.
It won’t completely halt the practice of resting stars, but we’ll all be better off for it in the end.
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