Rest and relaxation are keys to having good health, I guess it doesn’t always apply to the NBA.
Players such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have been under scrutiny for sitting out of marquee games with no injury, whereas the normality is to play whenever you’re healthy. The Cleveland Cavaliers have rested James on six occasions this season in which the Cavaliers have lost each game, most notably on March 4 and 18th. James in response to criticism for resting said, “We’re competing for championships, not just for one game”. Many NBA aficionados and retired players have voiced their opinions on the practice. Here we’ll evaluate whether benching players is more harmful or helpful to NBA teams that choose to let their stars rest.
The most primary issue I can agree with is the perceived disrespect towards the fans. Fans pay for tickets, fans bring energy and fans finance salaries. When fans come to see the Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, and the Warriors play, they want to see their star players, they want to see the main attractions. Without the fans, the sports landscape would not be where it is today. There would be no packed arenas, and emphatically no sports. I agree with NBA veterans in their presumptions that we would not see celebrated athletes such as Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan sitting out of games if they were not injured.
James is compared to Michael Jordan at every possible angle when the opportunity presents itself. But to be honest, the NBA has changed in more ways off the court than how the ball moves on the court. The NBA is generating more revenue than ever before based upon ticket sale and broadcasting contracts, which has rocketed monetary inflation into franchises. Players are being paid more now than ever, but aren’t being docked game checks when coaches order them to sit out a game. The projected amount of player DNP-rest’s (did not play/rest) by the end of the season is 307, an increase from the 145 DNP’s from last season.
The NBA schedule is a grueling 82-game marathon in which players are often due rest. The Warriors sat Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala for their game at the San Antonio Spurs in which they lost 107-85. In turn, the Warriors weren’t heavily criticized for sitting their stars in the same fashion as the Cavaliers. Yes, they were in the middle of back to back games in which they had to travel from Minnesota to San Antonio, but that was not the headline. The headline was Iguodala’s racial comments prior to the game. So is there a hypocrisy looming? Coach Gregg Popovich has often been labeled as a genius for resting his stars. But the excuse was that the Spurs are “old” concerning Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. To their credit, Duncan has recently retired with Parker and Ginobili on their way towards retirement. To the contrary, currently Popovich still rests Kahwi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge for games at a time, without scrutiny.
Personally, I am not anti-rest for players, but I do not agree with choose highly televised games to sit the best players. The NBA season is vastly different from the NFL season in terms of scheduling. The NFL is a 2-mile run compared to the NBA in schedule length. I do not believe the NBA season should be shortened. The integrity of the game would be compromised and would be unfair to veterans who have played the 82 game schedule in the past. I agree with James’ statement and he is right. The ultimate goal of a season to win the championship. However, what message is James sending to those that look up to him? That it’s okay to take a few days off when looking towards the bigger picture? With sports being the largest promoter of “no days off”, this is hurting the NBA and the message they’re looking to send.