If you were mad that the Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, you’re not the only one.
Adam Silver is right there with you.
Following the eyesore of a national TV matchup, the NBA’s commissioner sent a memo to owners urging them to get involved in the decision-making process that often deprives fans of seeing the Association’s best players wage battle against one another. ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne delivered the details:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has called the practice of teams resting marquee players “an extremely significant issue for our league” in a memo sent to team owners Monday and obtained ?by ESPN.
In the memo, Silver informed teams that the issue will be a prime topic of discussion at the next NBA board of governors meeting April 6 in New York and warned of ?”significant penalties” for teams that don’t abide by the league’s standing rules for providing ?”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.”
He states that it is unacceptable for owners to be uninvolved or defer decision-making on this topic to others in their organizations, who may not have the same awareness of the impact these decisions can have on “fans and business partners,” the reputation of the league and “perception of our game.”
Something about this rest process does need to be addressed. The maintenance projects sweeping the league are unavoidable. There is research to back up the relationship between fatigue and rest, so they’re not going anywhere. But there has to be a more friendly way to avoid nationally televised duds or impromptu announcements that the best player in the world is getting a rest night.
The Cavaliers should have relayed their LeBron decision far sooner. This isn’t something that came out of nowhere. Last week, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr at least announced the night before that he would be resting all of his key players. It’s still not ideal, but it’s better. It allows for the league, in future seasons, to schedule flex matchups; if one game becomes an unwatchable affair the night or 48 hours before, they pivot to the second option.
To the players’ and team’s credit, this problem is inescapable. The league has to do its own part. Lengthening the regular season to reduce back-to-backs is already in motion. The NBA also needs to consider front-loading these marque matchups, so that they’re not catching teams that have checked out on the regular season and started preparation for the playoffs. And while you cannot eliminate back-to-backs entirely, you can try to make sure these nationally televised contests don’t come on the front or latter ends of a back-to-back, thereby dissuading teams from resting their best players.
Again, nothing will solve this issue in its entirety. But both the teams and the league need to get on the same page with regards to preventing quirks like that of Saturday night. The health of players and quality of the product should be common goals shared between the two, the league and its teams and stars. That should be enough for both sides to want to work for common ground, whatever that may entail.