By Tommy Osborne, April 6 2017 —
Controversy recently arose in the National Basketball League when the Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 18 during a nationally televised game. The resting of the Cavaliers’ big three prompted NBA commissioner Adam Silver to send a memo to the league stating that “failure to abide by these rules will result in significant penalties.”
Silver stated that resting players can hurt the league’s reputation, relationships with business partners and affect the fans. While those are valid points, the NBA and its fans should be okay with players resting, whether the games are nationally televised or not.
The NBA season is long, spanning 82 games from October to April. In between those games, the players also practice. Maintaining a professional level of play throughout the season undoubtedly takes a lot of energy out of the players. Fans and the league must remember that athletes are also human. As amazing as they are, they also suffer from fatigue like the rest of us. Because of this, players need to rest occasionally so they can get their energy back and continue to play basketball at a high level for the rest of the season. Going long periods without any rest is taxing on the body and can potentially cause injuries that could’ve been avoided.
Travel is also a factor. Basketball features many back-to-back games and sometimes teams have to travel to two different cities on consecutive days, giving players no time to rest. Shortly after concluding one game, they have to travel to the next city and immediately prepare for another game. It’s unreasonable to expect athletes to rebound so quickly and still play at a high level.
Critics of resting players argue that it is unfair to fans that pay money to see their favourite stars, only to have them sit on the bench. While this is a fair point, it reflects the trials athletes go through.
Basketball players undergo a significant amount of wear and tear. Whether it’s bumps and bruises sustained from continuous contact or stress placed on their knees from jumping and cutting, athletes are not immune to fatigue. Without time to rest, their bodies can quickly break down and risk injury. While it may be unfortunate to miss seeing your favourite player, I’m sure every fan can agree that they would rather see that player healthy and lighting it up in the playoffs instead of getting injured in the regular season.
The league itself is focused on the financial aspect of having players sit out. Silver mentioned that having stars sit out games could negatively affect relationships with business partners, resulting in a loss of money. However, there is potential for financial gain if star players are healthy and rested for the playoffs. Rather than forcing an exhausted athlete to play and potentially get an injury, it makes more sense to let a player rest so they can perform at their highest level in significant games. More people will watch the Cavaliers in the playoffs if LeBron is playing rather than out with an injury or fatigue. While it is true that the league might lose money for some regular season games, they would certainly make up for that loss in the postseason.
Punishing NBA teams for resting their players is a knee-jerk reaction by Silver to appease angry fans. Allowing players to rest is not only the right thing to do, but it also benefits the league. It’s a win-win situation — the players get some much needed rest and the NBA can earn all the money it can when the postseason hits.