If an NBA head coach wants to rest his star players, he should do it one at a time, especially from marquee games on the league’s nationally televised schedule. Oh, and if possible, do it at home.
Those two guidelines — intended to alleviate some of the controversy that flared up this season over Golden State, Cleveland and other teams resting their heavy-usage (and best-known) players, to the chagrin of ticket-buying customers and the NBA’s broadcast partners — came out of this week’s discussion at the Board of Governors meetings, commissioner Adam Silver said Friday.
Also, Silver announced that Charlotte now is eligible to host the 2019 All-Star Game, in the wake of North Carolina’s recent repeal of House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill.” The NBA had pulled this year’s showcase game and All-Star Weekend events, moving them to New Orleans, in opposition to the HB2 legislation it felt discriminated against LGBT individuals, both in legal protections and in mandating restroom use in government-run buildings.
Charlotte, after resubmitting its application, still will be vetted along the usual All-Star lines. The NBA then will require that hotels, sponsors and others participating in the event sign on to an anti-discrimination policy it develops. “If those requirements are met,” Silver said, “it’s our expectation the All-Star Game will be there in 2019.”
The league’s updated stance on Charlotte and North Carolina, where it conducts business both through the Hornets’ franchise and the D-League entry in Greensboro, is consistent with the NCAA’s and Atlantic Coast Conference’s reconsideration of the state as a site for future championship games.
The matter of rest for healthy players, as a way of battling fatigue and fending off injuries, might not be specific to the NBA either. But from San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s early “work” in this area to outcries in March when the Warriors and the Cavaliers sat out stars such as Steph Curry, LeBron James, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving from prime-time ABC telecasts on consecutive Saturdays, this is the league which has generated most of the furor and caught most of the flak.
Silver had issued a memo to the 30 teams on March 20 calling the issue of rest “an extremely significant issue for our league,” a move widely perceived as a shot across the bow to the sort of wholesale sit-downs perpetrated by Golden State and Cleveland. That put the topic on the agenda this week and generated discussion that went places Silver and the owners might not have anticipated.
“The science is much less clear than I thought it would be,” the commissioner said. “And there are different philosophies from different organizations, in some cases from storied GMs vs. other GMs, and coaches who have different approaches.”
While Silver has been persuaded by medical data linking fatigue and player health, not all of it points in one direction. Even what would qualify as a “nuclear option” of reducing the regular season from 82 games – with considerable impact on the league’s, the owners’, the coaches’ and the players’ pocketbooks – might not guarantee a better product or fewer injuries.
“I don’t think we’re at the point at all where we can say this is a clear science, that if a player plays 25 games and rests for three days, that decreases the likelihood of an injury by 26 percent,” Silver said.
“There were predictions that players who were involved with national competitions in the summer would have an increased rate of injury,” he added. “We haven’t seen that data, either. And I’ve talked to some players in the league, some of our greatest All-Stars, who said that they felt when they didn’t play, it put them out of rhythm and actually increased their likelihood of being injured.”