NBA fans aren’t happy when coaches rest players, especially if the fan is attending the game.
It’s easy to understand why. Tickets are pricey, and if you fork over a hundred dollars or more to watch the stars come out, you want to see them play.
Imagine having tickets to watch Steph Curry of Golden State, or Cleveland’s LeBron James, only to learn that they won’t play because they need some rest.
Yes, even highly paid professional athletes need rest from time to time for health reasons, because the schedule is brutal. The 82-game NBA regular season schedule is simply too long. That’s a lot of games for any athlete, and the wear and tear on the body, in addition to travel, takes a toll.
Coaches know the season is a grind, which is why they give players a break, even if it means possibly losing a game.
Plus, coaches know their job is on the line if their team doesn’t do well in the post-season. Even though Golden State set a record for best regular-season record a year ago, their season was a letdown because they lost the NBA championship to Cleveland. That title is far more important than any regular-season record.
When a player is given a game off during a long 162-game baseball season, the impact on fans isn’t the same. Everyone knows an ace only pitches every five days or so and you can schedule when you go to the ballpark if you truly want to see a particular starting pitcher.
And while it’s disappointing to go to a game when a star hitter takes the day off, there are plenty of other good hitters to watch.
In football, players rarely get a game off because there aren’t that many games. The biggest problem facing football fans is that players tend to get hurt, but most fans understand if a player can’t play because of an injury.
Basketball is a unique animal. There are fewer players in the game, for one, and the number of true stars is finite. So when someone like LeBron gets the night off, it’s a big deal. Yes, it’s understandable why he might need to rest, especially as he gets older, but it’s still a big deal if you’re paying big bucks to see him play.
If it were just the fans, the NBA might not say much, but the league’s TV partners aren’t thrilled about it either.
One week after the Golden State Warriors sat Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala against the San Antonio Spurs on a Saturday ABC game, the Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love against the LA Clippers in another ABC game.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver understands the dilemma but has a difficult time finding a satisfactory solution.
In a memo, Silver indicates that “under current league rules, teams are required to provide 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. Failure to abide by these rules will result in significant penalties.”
Many players also are sympathetic to the fans’ plight when they buy tickets to games or watch on television and don’t see their favorite players on the floor.
The NBA takes scheduling and the health of players seriously. The NBA has reduced the number of back-to-back games and four-games-in-five-days scenarios, and plans to start the season a week earlier next year in an attempt to reduce those situations.
The bottom line, though, is an 82-game season is just too long. The sport demands too much physically.
The best option you don’t hear anyone suggest is reducing the number of games played to the benefit of the health of all players. Well, that depends on how you describe benefit.
The average annual NBA player salary is $5.15 million, $1.85 million more than players in Major League Baseball.
Players and owners are reluctant to do anything to slow the goose that lays the golden egg, even when the physical health of players is at stake.
Hillsboro resident Joe Kleinsasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Kleinsasser@wichita.edu.