A lot of people who run sports teams don’t have original thoughts. They simply use what has been successful for other teams and apply it to their own squads.
So, a few years ago, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich started giving his aging stars, Tim Duncan (who will be 39 this year), Manu Ginobili (who will be 38 in July), and even Tony Parker (a youngster at 33 in 2015) a game off here and there.
And since the Spurs have been to The Finals the past two seasons, winning last year, other coaches and organizations around the league have figured, what the heck, it must work.
For older players, it may be a good idea, particularly when the team faces a four games in five days stretch the NBA loves to schedule. We have observed Dallas giving veteran forward Dirk Nowitzki some time off.
As we have just noted, this is a rather new development. In the years prior to Popovich’s experiment, players weren’t given games off during the season.
Michael Jordan played 82 games nine times, including when he was 34 years old (1993-94) and even in his last season, at age 39 (2002-03). If he didn’t have an injury (or didn’t come out of retirement), he played no less than 78 games in a season.
Several years ago, players started taking games off at the end of the season, if and when their squads playoff positions were solidified. But, in the 60’s and 70’s, the star players dressed and played in these games, they just played less minutes, maybe around 24 minutes in a contest.
The thought at that time was the player needed game action heading into the playoffs, but not their normal workload so they could get some rest.
Of course, today’s players don’t want to do that because it affects their “numbers”. You certainly don’t want to play half a game, and get 14 points and 6 rebounds when you average 22 and 10.
And we get that there is a whole much more of an investment in the current players, teams are paying them a boatload of money, and they want their investments to be healthy.
On the other hand, the NBA is huge business, and fans are paying large sums of money to buy tickets to regular season games. However, they are disappointed when they see the stars not playing.
It is getting absurd. Saturday night, Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, a Popovich disciple, rested all-star guard Jeff Teague (26), Pero Antic (who averages 16 minutes a game at age 32), and DeMarre Carroll (28) in a game against Miami.
If you are healthy and you can’t play every night in your late 20’s, then there is something wrong with the way the NBA schedules itself.
New commissioner Adam Silver is said to be looking into the season’s slate, probably at the behest of the player’s association.
As it relates to the Cavaliers, Friday night, they lost a game at Indiana because David Blatt gave LeBron James a night off.
Had James played, let’s say, 20 minutes, could the wine and gold have won a game they lost by seven points? Our guess is yes.
And wouldn’t that have been better for Cleveland’s record and possible playoff seeding? Of course.
We even heard ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst say last week, that since the Cavs played seven games in 12 days, there was no reason James should ever play all of those games in that kind of stretch in his career again. What?
If that’s true, then the schedule is broken and needs to be fixed.
On the other hand, try explaining that to the old-time players who traveled on commercial flights and often flew in on the morning of that night’s game.