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The resting of star players in the NBA has become a hot topic both around the water cooler and among sports media, even reaching the upper echelon of the commissioner’s office. An increasing number of teams are resting their star players during strategic matchups as they look forward to the postseason, rather than to the best record in the regular season. These days off for superstars are starting to catch the attention of the league, who do not want their money-makers on the bench any more than is absolutely necessary. But is there a real problem, is this a manageable issue, and how can it be fixed?
Greg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, has been manipulating the rules in an effort to win championships for years, often sitting his men in order to gain them rest so that they’ll be fresh for the playoffs. In 2012, the Spurs were fined $250,000 for sitting four key players during a nationally televised game against the Clippers, a move that angered the league as it potentially cost them viewers, which costs them money. Recently, as more teams have begun to copy Pop’s strategy, the league has stepped up, demanding that the NBA be run as a business, and that it should always present the best product to the fans.
With the Warriors and the Cavaliers both adopting this new policy, the league felt forced to send a memo to all teams, requesting that they cease the resting of star players during primetime games. LeBron James thinks that he is the reason why the issue has received extra attention, that his absence from the floor has prompted league officials to panic. He may be right, but the fans are on the side of the league, wanting the big names on the floor for the big games. If this practice continues, odds are that the league will impose new rules, be assured of that; they won’t allow profits to dip in any significant way. Giving the players specific rest periods or schedule breaks might be the way to best handle the issue, building in rest so that fans can still see their favorite players on the court. Scheduling is always a problematic issue, but one will be worked out eventually, something that appeases coaches, owners, players, and audiences.
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