Wednesday, March 22, 2017

NBA: No Sure Answer To League's Resting Controversy

The latest trend in the beloved National Basketball Association doesn't involve cupcakes showing up to OKC Thunder games on crutches or any advanced analytics showing Dion Waiters as a top ten player in the league.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recognizes a trend among the more competitive teams in the league, where teams will rest their key players for many reasons, mainly to preserve them for a hopeful NBA Finals run come summer time.

And frankly, Commissioner Silver wants these teams to give it a rest.

All bad puns and awful wordplay aside, Silver sent out a memo to all 30 clubs stressing the importance, and impact, of deciding to sit a star player. Silver stated that resting players is "an extremely significant issue for our league" and went on to speak of significant penalties in regards to teams committing such acts, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

It's good to see a man in power take a serious issue that directly impacts the fans of their respective sport, who knows when the last time we saw that was? However, as much as Silver's intentions  benefits fans of basketball, it's impacting the NBA's wallet/exposure more than anything.

The Association's new television deal, which is currently in year one and will stretch to 2024, is reportedly worth $2.66 billion a year. That's a lot of dough for a company such as ESPN or Turner Sports to slide to the NBA in exchange for star players being rested on one of their prime-time television broadcasts.

Such was the case this previous Saturday night, when the Cleveland Cavaliers made the executive decision to bench Lebron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on a nationally televised match-up with the Los Angeles Clippers. A week beforehand, the Golden State Warriors rested Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green against the San Antonio Spurs.

So what's the problem? 

There's two sides to the tricky balancing act the NBA is currently dealing with in regards to resting players.

One side belongs to you, the hard working fan who just wants to see your favorite player. You've been saving up for months to snatch great seats as (insert All-Star player here) is coming to your town for one of the handful of times per year. You're on your way to the arena buzzing with excitement, just to receive an update that said player is being rested. "For what?" you ask yourself, scrolling through your Twitter timeline to see if any injury updates have been posted. You catch a tweet by the sports analyst who says off the wall stuff on his radio show, saying your favorite player is being rested for the postseason. Now you couldn't be more disappointed, and will have to wait almost an entire year to see him again, because he's resting.

On the other side stands the business side, the one that usually wins in these cases. You're a coach of a certain NBA team who has their conference all but wrapped up. The 82 game season is a long, grueling and physically demanding one. Nobody wins a championship in the regular season, so you start game-planning for the playoffs. You want your men as fresh as possible, as the postseason grind is just as excruciating, so you decide to give your star players the day off. Surely it's not ideal for the fans and spirit of good competition, but you're the coach. Those fans pay decent money to see your players, yet you get paid even more handsomely to win the NBA Finals.

So what's the solution?

Thus comes the tricky part of the equation. In a scenario such as the current one, there's no real right or wrong way to go about it. It's obvious with how the NBA season schedule is fixated, there is no permanent solution to make everybody including the league, network executives, players and fans all satisfied.

The easy band-aid over the situation would be shortening the length of the season. Cutting the number of games down would be extremely beneficial to mostly everybody, but would result in paychecks having to be cut down, something not everybody is exactly begging to do (Although Steve Kerr stated he would be fine with it in an interview following a win over Minnesota this week).

While the NBA isn't directly solving this issue, they do currently have plans to push the season back a week, cut down on preseason games and spread games out more than previous years. With these changes on deck, modern day players should be able to limit these "rest nights", even if some former players don't think the rest is necessary.

 "If you don't have at least 10 years (of) experience, get your a-- playing" - Hall of Fame player Karl Malone on resting issues

Whether you share the same opinion as the Utah Jazz legend or not, one thing is for certain: As long as coaches have the 82 game schedule and a championship on the line, no real changes are going to be made. Basketball, out of the four major sports in the United States, provides the most individually driven game, both on the court and for marketing/television as well. No true reputable damage will trickle down from a player sitting a night or two in the name of preservation. After all, we tend to forget sports are a form of entertainment, and that these entertainers are indeed human like you and I.

However, to the little boy wearing a Steph Curry jersey, or little girl wearing a Lebron James jersey at the arena, seeing their hero play with their own eyes just might spark something: something no television contract, ticket price or any dollar amount could outweigh.

Donnie Druin is an award-winning writer from the Arizona Newspaper Association. Follow him on Twitter @DonnieDruin for all the latest things in the world of sports, or just to tell him to give his puns a rest.

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