NBA load management edict shows focus on money

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Ray Burton
Ray writes mostly in-depth analytical pieces covering a range of sports from a more statistical perspective drawing his inspiration from the fanalytics movement. Ray writes on the NFL, Premier League, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NRL.

The NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams on Monday stating load management would now be classified as rest. Other than clarifying the situation does this really make any difference to the teams involved in load management for their aging superstars?

What the NBA said

On Tuesday ESPN’s Zach Lowe broke the news that the NBA had sent a memo around teams in the league stating that “load management would now be the same as rest.” Given the desire for big-ticket players to play in the league’s big-ticket televised games, this makes sense. But where does it leave the competition aspect of the league?

Last season, Kawhi Leonard sat out 24 regular-season games as the Raptors used load management to win their first NBA title. Surely that can’t be a bad thing for the Raptors or their fans? Kawhi Leonard was definitely happy to take the days off and claim another ring, and another Finals MVP.

So what’s this really all about. Like most thing’s it comes down to money. The league doesn’t care whether a player needs rest, they believe there are adequate games for players to rest without the need for load management.

Rest Rules

So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Under current NBA rest rules, teams are only allowed to rest one healthy player per game, in-home games, that are not nationally televised.

When you consider that some of the marquee teams like the Lakers play most of their games on the national stage things get a little trickier. And that’s where the NBA employs some fuzzy logic they like to call “unusual circumstances”.

What constitutes unusual circumstances? Well, that will be decided by the league on a case by case basis. Does it amount to a player with a long injury history, needing to reduce the risk of a recurrence of that injury by taking a game off? Maybe the back end of a back-to-back, or a long road trip?

The league will let you know at the time. On a case by case basis.

So we have a blanket rule, that will be enforced individually.

And that’s where it falls down.

If you’re going to watch a game with the Clippers in this season, you know there’s a reasonable chance Kawhi might take the night off because he needs to rest…but not anymore. Now he will either need to be injured, in a non-nationally televised game, or be experiencing “unusual circumstances”.

NBA Load Management: Marquee players health is not the leagues primary concern © Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Marquee players health is not the leagues’ primary concern © Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The same goes for the Lakers with LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. Prolonging players’ careers, and giving marquee matchups in the playoffs should surely be the aim of any policy. Otherwise why make this kind of change now?

Not in the name of the game, or the pursuit of a Championship, but all in the name of TV revenue money.

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