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By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear me out...What to do about resting NBA players

 

April 15, 2017



What to do about resting NBA players

The NBA just wrapped up one of their most impressive regular season’s in recent memory. There’s been a fierce MVP battle that has given shows like Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn and whatever FS1’s top debate show is, months’ worth of debate around whether the award should go to James Harden, Russell Westbrook or Kawhi Leonard.

We’ve seen a promising group of young players make “the leap” and some of them like Giannis Antetokoumpo, start carving out superstar roles.

We also had the Golden State Warriors super team, the Utah Jazz finally getting over the hump and making the playoffs and the Spurs still running circles around everyone as they won 61 games and clinched the No. 2-seeed in the West.

It was an incredible NBA season and the first round of the playoffs will feature intriguing matchups on both sides of the conference.

But rather than talk about any of that what has dominated the talk surrounding the NBA, is players sitting out games for rest.

A minor problem has been blown out of proportion by talking heads like Tony Kornheiser, Jason Whitlock, Stephen A. Smith and Colin Cowherd.

Like I just said players resting is an issue, but not a major one because there are easy fixes and NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been on this basically since he took the reins from David Stern.

Teams resting healthy players is really a DEFCON 4 issue, now if Stern were still in charge I’d bump it up to DEFCON 3 because he did not give a damn what the owners or players were telling him. Silver, to his credit, listens to the players and owners taking their opinions into account in his decision making.

When the best basketball coach on the planet Gregg Popovich started resting his players five seasons ago, much to the ire of Stern. He did it as a means to protect his players and keep his team fresh for the playoffs, because winning a championship is the goal.

Instead of grinding his player into the ground with their fourth game in five nights, which is commonly referred to a “schedule loss” in NBA circles. It’s why Tim Duncan was able to play at a ridiculous level for so long and why Manu Ginoblli and Tony Parker are still playing. Popovich was ahead of the curve on this and it took the league some time to catch on.

Silver has been doing great work on the schedule, trying to reduce the number of back-to-backs and avoiding as many of those schedule losses as possible.

The only reason this became a topic to lead all sports debate shows is because the Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the NBA primetime Saturday matchup between the LA Clippers on March 18. The Clippers crushed the Cavs 108-78 and the following Monday there was a lot of sanctimonious outrage in the sports media.

Back to Popovich, he did the same thing during the 2012-2013 season in a primetime matchup between LeBron and the Miami Heat. Quickly, there is a slight difference between this scenario and the Cavs, the Spurs gave the heads up a day in advance while the Cavs only gave an 80-minute notice. Still Pop and the Spurs were getting killed by the media and Stern was furious.

So why did this rest issue not become a big deal like it is today? Because the Spurs lost by 5, 105-100, to the Heat and everyone remembered “Oh yeah, Pop is a genius” and the whole thing went away, well sort of, Stern was still salty and fined the Spurs $25,000.

From my vantage point there are two fixes to all of this, one is very plausible while the other not so much.

The plausible fix is continuing to tinker with the schedule and having teams give a day’s notice on who they plan to rest. Silver and his buddies can also make sure that their primetime matchups don’t fall on back-to-back’s for either team and work the schedule around so that the teams have a few more practice days beforehand. This is the easiest fix and one I’m sure Silver is going to implement.

Now the implausible solution, and one that might be a tough sell, cut the 82-game schedule down to 72 games. This would drastically cut down on back-to-backs and eliminate the schedule loss. The NBA has been in a second-golden age for the past eight seasons. Reducing the schedule would send this era into unheard of heights.

You’d have better rested players, more time for practice and game planning. It would make the league as a whole that much better.

The only fallback is that you’d have to ask the players, owners and TV networks to take less money.

And that’s not happening.

So there’s no need to fret anymore over this anthill turned into a mountain issue. Silver is on the case and he’s going to get it fixed because that’s what the best commissioner in professional sports does.

 
 

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