With the playoffs DAYS away, the league's top teams are sitting their stars to rest them up for the playoffs. In all the headlines, people are discussing how LeBron James is sitting the last few games as they've already clinched the best record in the NBA. Here's the link for the story regarding Stern "discussing" this "problem."
To which I have a couple replies:
1. What are you gonna do about it?
Hate it or love it, there's no reason for LeBron to risk any kind of injury when there's nothing left to play for until the playoffs start. If you force a fully healthy player to play, he, his coach, the GM, and the owner will tell him to fake some kind of injury forcing him not to play. You know what players come up with to not play in games? Ever see these box score DNPs: Flu-Like Symptoms, Strained hamstring/ankle/shoulder, PERSONAL REASONS. A guy just has to sniffle, call it a flu like symptom, and take the game off when all he's really doing is resting for the playoffs. Unless the NBA gets lie detectors at every arena, there is no way to regulate and enforce forcing players to play if they're able.
2. Why all the huff-n-puff now?
Players have been doing this since as far back as I can remember. Dirk Nowitzki did it in the 06/07 season when they ended 6 games ahead of 2nd place Phoenix. I remember it vividly: the game after the Clippers when Dallas clinched the top seed, Avery Johnson said he was resting his starters. Just did a quick find and found the recap of that game:
Avery Johnson announced right away that they wouldn’t be joining the club on a road trip to Minnesota. “I told them if I see them on the plane, I’ll fine them,” Johnson said.Well there you go. So why is the NBA taking things so serious NOW? Because as MVP as Dirk was that season, he's no super duper star like LeBron or Kobe. With LeBron taking the last 4 games off including an Eastern Conference Finals rematch against Orlando... ON NATIONAL TV -ABC, people don't care, people don't watch, league doesn't get that much more money. I don't know if you watched that game but Jeff Van Gundy went on rant about how stars should play if they're able and it's not fair to the fans. He came up with an anecdote about a kid coming to his first NBA game and doesn't see Kobe or LeBron, which brings me to my next question...
3. Not fair to the fans? Give me a break.
Look. LeBron played 76 games to get the best record. The Cavs proceeded to play @Chicago, home vs Indiana, home vs Orlando, @Atlanta. In this season, the Cavs played at Chicago twice, play half their games at home, and have played at Atlanta twice. You get your chances to see LeBron, and you know what? LeBron isn't the only NBA player you should go out and see in person. If you can afford tickets to a Cavs game, chances are you're gonna go to a few, maybe next year you won't wait until the very end of the season and you take advantage of the 76 other games he played in full in the previous 5 months. "But he might not be back next season!" Well you've had him for 7 seasons, you had your chance.
4. Why not have a conversation about players taking games off when they're team ISN'T in the playoffs.
Yes, I'm talking about tanking. Many teams are doing it right now. Clippers are starting Steve Blake, DeAndre Jordan, and Travis Outlaw over their usual "stars"/starters Baron Davis, Drew Gooden, and Eric Gordon. Excuses? Baron - sprained wrist, Gordon - viral infection, Gooden - unknown, but he's not playing these last few games for some reason. Sidenote: Congrats to Steve Blake for FIRST CAREER TRIPLE DOUBLE!
Other teams? How about New York not playing Wilson Chandler (groin), TMac (?), Al Harrington (shoulder)? New Orleans - CP3 (finger), Peja (Abdominal strain), Detroit - Ben Gordon, Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey (???), Warriors - Corey Maggette (hand).
If these guys are in the playoff hunt, no doubt at least some of them would overcome whatever was "ailing" them and give 100% in a game. But no, they're headed to the lottery and more losses = more chances to get a top 3 pick. It's as simple as that. Of course the catch is that the team with worst record only has a 25% chance of getting the top pick (75% chance of not getting it) but hey, it can't hurt to have more ping pong balls in the ping pong ball machine. Maybe if there was a lottery for the top four teams in the NBA for whoever gets homecourt advantage... nahhh.
5. Why do you care how teams manage themselves?
Resting their top guys does not always work. With rest comes rust. Going back to the Dirk Nowitzki resting in the 06/07 season. THEY LOST IN THE FIRST ROUND TO 8TH SEED GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS. Dirk averaged 20 points on 38% (21% 3pt). Compare that to that season's stats: 24.6 points on 50% (41.6% 3pt). Hey, take it for what it's worth.
Just read between those baselines and make up your own mind. All in all, I feel teams can do whatever they want.