The NBA has a serious problem on its hands when it comes to teams resting players.

The situation is reaching a fever pitch, particularly because in the past two weeks nationally televised games have been basically ruined by teams resting their star players. First it was the Warriors and Spurs, a game in which Golden State elected not to play Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green. Then on Saturday it was the Cavs, who chose to rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love against the Clippers.

Both the Warriors and Cavs basically threw in the white flag and suffered blowout losses, but the bigger story is how the NBA is going to deal with teams giving players rest throughout the season. Cleveland general manager David Griffin said that the
league office contacted him
after the Clippers game and they were “not happy.”

James spoke about the situation to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin after the Cavs’ 125-120 win over the Lakers on Sunday:

“I don’t think the NBA can do anything about it. At the end of the day, it sucks at times where certain guys have to rest, but certain guys need rest.

And it’s a long, strenuous season and the NBA does a great job of putting the schedule together as best as they can. You’re going to have back-to-backs. You’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights, but a coach’s job is to figure out a way for their team to compete for a championship, not compete for a game.

Obviously it sucks at times because certain games you only play in certain cities once, or you play certain teams once on their home floor, but for me personally, I want to play in every game. I wanted to play last night but my coach felt like it was best that I didn’t play last night, so I’m going to go with my coach and he’s never steered me wrong.”

LeBron’s sentiments are shared with most of the basketball world. Nobody thinks these guys want to take days off, but teams like the Spurs have proven that giving players strategic rest throughout the season can help players stay fresh throughout the playoffs — and it can even extend their careers.

In the Cavs’ case, Love was just coming back from injury and Irving has been battling a sore knee, but LeBron, as usual, is the pinnacle of NBA health. It’s understandable that the Cavs might want to give him a day off, but they’re also playing him 37.6 minutes per game, second only to the RaptorsKyle Lowry.

If Cleveland really wants to lessen the burden on its superstar, it might start by lightening the minutes load. How many wins does it cost the Cavs if LeBron plays 35 minutes instead of nearly 38? Probably not a lot.

But those minutes added up over the course of a season could give James essentially seven extra games worth of rest. Maybe then he wouldn’t have to sit out games in cities, like Memphis, that only get one chance to see him in person all year.


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