Players resting is an unwinnable battle

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, right, gestures as he sits with Kyrie Irving, left, on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

There has been much hubbub recently in the NBA about the resting of players for regular games simply for recuperation purposes. After the Cleveland Cavaliers chose to rest their superstars against the Los Angeles Clippers in what was supposed to be a primetime game, things finally came to a head.

Commissioner Adam Silver both publicly and privately warned teams this is a practice that cannot continue in the league.

LeBron James, face of the league, was upfront on the matter, saying he felt the rest is warranted and that the league is only taking issue now that he has become a more common practice of the system.

But James is hardly the first high profile case. Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, who have been the league’s bastion of consistent success, have been resting their stars for years as their roster has aged. Just recently coming off a back-to-back, the Golden State Warriors rested Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala for a primetime and fan-enticing matchup with those very Spurs.

So where does that leave us?

It might become the first issue that Silver and the players, who up to this point appear to have quite a harmonious relationship, butt heads over.

It is reasonable for the NBA to want their stars to play, as this is the entertainment business and the quality of their product is based around these superstars. Their enormous television contracts weren’t agreed upon so fans so could watch Kevon Looney vs. Kyle Anderson. Fans also pay good money to see specific teams and superstars when they make their rare trips to the fan’s home venue.

That’s why Silver is upset and is making reprimands.

The problem with that is the players aren’t going to give in on this one. The NBA’s premier franchises have one goal in mind at this point: the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Since the Cavaliers were injury-plagued in their 2015 Finals defeat, they’ve adjusted. Certainly the Warriors felt fatigued by the Finals last year after chasing the regular season wins record.

The teams have realized that in order to reach these goals, they had to reset their priorities. Outside-the-box thinking and analysis is at an all-time high.

Golden State, and most franchises, now employ directors of athletic performance. They use the latest wearable technologies to measure wear and tear in games. They gauge players’ health every day. Some teams go the extra mile and also measure off-court factors such as sleep. Additionally, diet and nutrition are as important as ever.

All this comes with the optimization of performance, and therefore wins, in mind. As technology progresses and data expands, this a trend that will only continue. Teams will keep doing what’s best for them and their players in the long run.

For Silver and the front office, it is essential they realize this. Trying to force players and teams away from good health is an asinine battle to fight and a poor look for the league.

Any solution will have to come from the league’s own innovation, not punishments to its members. Either a shortened regular season or an expanded time frame for the season should be considered in order to reduce back-to-backs.

Whatever the solution is, it should come from a collusion between both parties, not a public battle where opposing sides are drawing lines in the sand. It’s an issue that is still in its adolescence in many ways. Hopefully, both sides will proceed in a manner that allows the NBA to grow positively from its current beloved status.  


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.