Is there any way to prevent players from taking nights off?
By: Bogart Lipe
First, two weeks ago Steve Kerr decided to hold out Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala against the Spurs, who were already going to play without LaMarcus Aldridge (who was diagnosed with minor heart arrhythmia and fortunately has been cleared since) and Kawhi Leonard, who was in the concussion protocol. What we were left with to watch resulted in a 107-85 Spurs blowout win with Ian Clark and Patty Mills being the best performers for each side. For the Warriors, this game came the night after a 103-102 loss at Minnesota. It does make a little sense to rest your best players in the second game of a back-to-back after a close loss and when a decent amount of travel is involved. However, the timing and the extent Kerr went to with resting four of his most important players did not have the best optics. Then, this past Saturday, LeBr…excuse me…Tyronn Lue decided that LeBron would not suit up against the Clippers, joining teammates Kevin Love (still attempting to fully recover from his knee injury) and Kyrie Irving (who tweaked a knee in the previous game) who both took the night off to recover and rest. The result? A 30 point Clippers shellacking of the Cavs as well as 17 minutes for LeBron’s number 1 fan, James Jones. The ratings were even worse. Following up the 1.8 overnight rating the Spurs and Warriors provided the previous weekend, this game put up a grotesque 1.1, the lowest recorded overnight rating for a national NBA broadcast. Yes, it coincided with the NCAA tournament, but that won’t make ESPN/ABC or Adam Silver feel any better. Not to mention every fan at the game who in some cases traveled thousands of miles to see their favorite players. It makes it worse that the biggest stars on the planet rested not only in the game of the week, but also that they’re resting on the road. It would be one thing to rest in a home game, where fans theoretically have 41 games to watch their favorite player, but many fans at other arenas have at most two games a season to watch, and sometimes only one game per season. Adam Silver was forced to respond, and sent out a memo threatening “serious penalties” for offenses like the ones committed by the Warriors, Cavs, and historically, the Spurs.
Silver must do something to protect his league as well as the fans. If this continues, ESPN and TNT will not be happy, and it will be bad business for the NBA, a league that infamously had its Finals on tape delay before the 1980s. The NBA is not invincible like the NFL, and these poor regular season games have deteriorated the relevance of the league up until the late spring and early summer. If players seriously, with all their heart, believe an 82 game season is oh-so-hard on their superhuman bodies, then the season’s length should ideally be cut to 70 or 75 games. However, the owners would never agree to less games and less money, so this option is infeasible. The only realistic option for the NBA is to heavily fine teams when they abuse the ability to rest their players, similar to the $250,000 fine imposed on the Spurs in 2012. The fans deserve better than to show up to a game and then find out as they arrive that the top 5 basketball player(s) in the world that they came to see will take the night off. When this happens, there must be a punishment.
It’s time for Adam Silver to step up and follow through on his vow to penalize teams who elect to sit its key players and sabotage the television networks, league, and fans. The players make too much money and the fans pay too much money to have this happen as often as it does. It does not even matter whether it happens for a national broadcast or just a local one. When the best players sit out games for no good reason, especially on the road, something must be done and it appears now that heavy fines are the only way to accomplish this. It’s only a matter of time before a team tests Silver and we will find out whether or not the NBA truly can do anything to deter the excessive resting.