The National Basketball Association is one of the most watched sports in the world. It has evolved into a huge business that spans across the world and is marketed almost everywhere. The NBA profits from superstar players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Steph Curry playing in front of television audiences and sold out arenas. For the past two weeks, the Saturday marquee games on ABC have been total trainwrecks and fans are not happy.
Last weekend the Golden State Warriors played the San Antonio Spurs in what was supposed to be an NBA western conference showdown but ended up being a blowout due to the Warriors resting their “Big Three” of Draymond Green, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson. The Spurs would go on to easily win the game playing mostly against the Golden State “B” squad. San Antonio fans who paid the extra premium to see the Warriors superstars play came away disappointed even though their team came away with the win.
The issue is that sometimes a team will only come to your city once a season and that could be the only opportunity to see that team play. It’s not fair to the fans that bought tickets for that game or to the millions of viewers who tuned into the nationally televised game just to basically see a noncompetitive scrimmage.
To make matters worse, yesterday the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to rest their “Big Three” of Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love in their road game against the Los Angeles Clippers. This was also a nationally televised game that ended up being a 30 point drubbing as the Cavaliers scored their lowest point total of the season. Fans at the game were so irate that they started chanting “We want LeBron!” late in the game according to Sports Illustrated. The Cavaliers only visit Los Angeles once this season so Clipper fans will have to wait until next year to see King James and company play.
ABC analyst and former player Mark Jackson wasn’t at all pleased with the star players resting. “This is an absolute joke. Who is protecting the fans? Who is protecting the game of basketball? Something’s got to be done.” Jackson’s on-screen partner Jeff Van Gundy said that strategic resting is a “prosecutable offense.” Those are some pretty strong words but that just goes to show how deeply some feel about this issue. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes that things can be resolved by the NBA through scheduling.
If neither team plays a Saturday game as part of a back to back set then coaches would have no excuse to rest a player for that matchup. “We need to treat these ABC games like afternoon games where you don’t play the night before,” Rivers said. “And then you don’t play the next night after. It sounds so easy, but it’s not. It’s hard scheduling around that way. It makes the rest of the schedule even harder. I think maybe we have to suck that up and do it and play more back-to-backs [at other times] if that’s what it takes. We have to protect the product.”
As of right now, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has not imposed any fines on the teams electing to rest players during marquee matchups. Silver has long been an advocate for player health and wellness so a fine is probably really far fetched. However, the NBA is overhauling its schedule for next season moving up opening night and shortening the preseason. This would mean less back to back sets for teams during the season. It would also mean that the kid who lives in a small market town and wants to see LeBron play has a better chance of actually seeing him play instead of sitting on the sidelines in street clothes. That would be a win for the fans and the NBA as well.
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