On Monday, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver sent a Memo to the league owners addressing the “an extremely significant issue for our league” of teams resting their star players. He said player rest would be a “prime topic” at the next NBA board of governors meeting on April 6th. The Cavs got blown out by the Clippers on National TV just days after both the Spurs and the Warriors each rested its top three players for a Nationally televised game. The league looks at it this way, if the stars rest, the fans don’t watch, or worse, they don’t buy tickets because they don’t want to spend big dollars to see their favorite players rest behind the bench.
Everyone agrees that it is best to have healthy teams going into the Playoffs. Everyone agrees that the fans and corporate sponsors (who actually fund the entire league with their dollars to support the teams) should see the product of the floor they are expecting. Coaches and players have lobbied for fewer back-to-backs and four games in five nights and the league has already done that to some extent. Old school players and fans have little sympathy for these millionaire “cry babies” who need to “rest” when they have to go to work every day for a fraction of the paycheck. Yet, the smartest players and coaches in the league that have utilized rest during the regular season are the ones winning championships.
The NBA already has “Larry Bird Rights” and the “Derrick Rose Rule.” My proposed solution to address this significant rest issue is what I call “The Tim Duncan Rule.” It is well documented that Tim Duncan was given a couple extra seasons at the end of his career because of Head Coach/GM Gregg Popovich’s maintenance program. To qualify for the Tim Duncan Rule, the resting player must reach one of the following benchmarks:
1) 25,000 NBA minutes played
2) be 34 years old
The Rule states, “Teams may rest players who qualify for the Tim Duncan Rule for three consecutive games without reporting an injury. Under this Rule, once a player is held out of the first game for rest, that player shall not be eligible to play for the next two games. Lost games under this Rule shall not be credited towards any league or team-mandated suspension of that player.”
Today there are 29 players 34 or older on active NBA rosters:
Very few of these older players are playing extreme minutes. In addition to those 29, there are 39 active players with at least 25,000 career minutes and most of them are listed above. There are, however, a few high-minute players that are still young in age, but high in mileage, like Lebron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, and Chris Paul. So those high mileage stars would also qualify for rest.
What this would do is make “rest” a little more painful for the team. Rather that just conceding a road game on the second night of a back-to-back, the coach would have to find a three-game stretch where he felt comfortable going without his resting player. This strategy risks losing ground in a Playoff race or losing home court advantage. It also gives a player in need of rest of a significant rest. If the player is not officially out for “rest” then he would be required to dress, warm-up with the team, and be available on the bench.
This is also a win from the fan and corporate sponsor perspective. Coaches will utilize rest less and only with the older players. In addition, if a fan sees that a certain veteran player will be sitting, more often than not, they will know a little further in advance. If a coach chose to reduce a player’s minutes as a form of rest, that would be fine. Fans still get to see their favorite players play, they get to attempt to get an autograph as the players come out of the locker room, watch them warm-up, and the product on the floor will be improved. Reduced minutes will become the way coaches manage wear-and-tear on players’ bodies, but gone would be the days of twenty-something stars like Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving sitting out for rest. The young guys should play whenever able and the Tim Duncan Rule might be a good place to start.