The NBA season is a grind. It’s an 82 game schedule full of back-to-backs, practices and media request that can cause even the youngest legs to require rest. But, what happens when fans pay $100 for tickets to see players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry play but get to the arena and they have decided to sit.
Is this the luxury of winning?
I say that because you don’t see players like Ricky Rubio or Damian Lillard taking rest days. It may be due to their team’s record whereas teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs have their true focus on the playoffs. So, does that mean that the regular season is not as important? Do some marquee players not care if fans are spending their hard-earned money to come see them play only to get an update while they’re in the concession stand that James is not playing because he’s tired?
Why are you tired? What makes your job any different from us regular folk going to work 5-7 days out of the week then heading home to live our normal life? We don’t make millions of dollars to play a GAME. But, you’re telling me that playing Monday and Tuesday has you worn out? FOH.
The NBA has been under attack for a few years in reference to these rest days. However, it wasn’t until recently when ESPN started to get involved that Adam Silver began to take notice. He released a short memo to NBA owners that said:
There could be “significant penalties” for teams that don’t give proper “notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest,”
That’s all well and good but later on, ESPN touched on the real reason for the memo, and it wasn’t for the well-being of the fans.
As always, our aim is to serve NBA fans with the best matchups involving the league’s top stars and we share the fans’ disappointment. We understand this is a complex issue and we’re working closely with the NBA to best address it going forward from a media partnership standpoint”.
The fans are a huge reason for the backlash but the real truth of the matter is, it’s bad for business. ESPN and TNT has a deal with the NBA to showcase games. 9 times out of 10 it will be a marquee matchup. Take Monday night for instance when the Oklahoma City Thunder took on the Warriors. For any basketball fan not living under a rock that meant a Russell Westbrook and Curry showdown. How would the fans and TNT have felt if either of those players sat out due to fatigue?
This is the issue at stake here. It’s not the concerns and the wallets of the average Joe, it’s the bottom line in a marketing partnership. But, the question still remains on how to fix this.
Silver spoke of significant penalties for teams that do this but how can one really tell? Should the league have a doctor on hand for each team in case they try to pull a fast one? What difference does it make if the owners notify the league in advance that a player is sitting out? How does that fix the problem? I can call ahead to my job and tell them I’m not coming in or I can just not show up. Either way, I’m not there. Nothing they can do to stop me.
Here’s a solution.
You will never know if a player is faking an injury or not so that’s a lost cause trying to fight that battle. So, what you do is give each team a certain amount of rest days per season. Say each team gets 5 rest days. Doesn’t matter if it’s all in the same week or not, but 5 is the max. And for TV purpose for a game televised on TNT, ESPN or ABC they are not allowed to miss games unless there is a significant injury.
I get that travel across the country can take its toll but James, Curry, and Kawhi Leonard are no different from Westbrook and James Harden who had this to say:
“I’m a hooper,” Harden said. “I just want to hoop. I’ll rest when I’m done. I feel like my teammates and organization need me to go out there and do what I do. I get obviously paid for it, but it’s something I love. I enjoy the grind. I enjoy how hard it is. I think that makes you tougher. That makes you who you are.”
Harden takes the approach of a player willing to do what it take to win while LeBron offered his two cents:
I don’t think the NBA can do anything about it. At the end of the day, it sucks at times where certain guys have to rest, but certain guys need rest.
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.
Nice words coming from the face of the league. All I got from that is screw you NBA and the fans. Yes, the big picture is a championship but it’s still based on entertainment. What if fans started to boycott games? What if they stopped buying your shoes or following you on Twitter or Instagram, then what? It’s a game you play in a packed arena, not in a secluded gym somewhere.
It will be hard if the NBA decides to crack down on players resting. I will end my rant with this. There are back-to-backs in the playoffs, what’s the difference? Why not rest then.