Rest assured, fans pay to see healthy players play
Sooner or later, the Nuggets will have to sit Danilo Gallinari to rest him. Or, say, Jameer Nelson. It’s pretty much unavoidable. “We’ll have to at some point say, ‘Hey, take the night off,’ ” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
But for the NBA, it should be something to be avoided at all costs. The Spurs started it, but now the “rest” phenomenon is growing out of control. There are two sides to the issue, and both are right. Teams need to take care of their players. Fans want to know when they show up at arenas that every healthy body will be participating.
Otherwise, the risk is creating an indifferent fan base less willing to spend.
This is how: I’m a fan. It’s November. I just watched a commercial for my favorite team advertising, say, a 10-game ticket pack. “Catch stars such as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and LeBron James!” I buy it.
But on Dec. 10, the Cavaliers come to town and LeBron is sitting. February rolls around and Curry is being held out by the Warriors. I’m a fan of my team but, you know, it’s cool to see the league’s biggest stars as well. The NBA is built on its stars and advertises its stars more than its teams. That, after all, was the hook that got me to buy the package.
So then next time, I don’t buy it.
Maybe I skip season tickets too, in favor of grabbing a singlegame ticket here or there along the way. It’s a roll of the dice, but at least I know what I getting into that night before I buy the ticket.
The NBA does not want this scenario.
But the NBA does want to take care of its athletes.
Both the fans and players have to be taken care of.
It’s why the league has to accelerate efforts to space out games during the season.
Teams are going to do what they have to do.
“And if a guy needs rest, he needs rest,” Malone said. “At the end of the day, this is a business. We have to protect our investments. We’re not trying to do anything to dissuade the fans from coming out and supporting, but if you’re a championshipcaliber team you have to rest your players sometimes. Because if not, you risk losing them a lot longer.”
Even nonchampionship-caliber teams are getting in on the act. The Nuggets did it late last season. Dallas’ Wesley Matthews said he “saw red” when coach Rick Carlisle told him he would not play against Oklahoma City last Wednesday, a day after the Mavs went to overtime against the Cavs. The majority of players want to play in as many games as they can. Science is saying that may not be prudent.
Golden State sat Draymond Green last week against the Nuggets. Last year, the Warriors sat Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala on a visit to Denver. No matter how big a Nuggets fan you are, that’s a very bad return on the investment to buy the ticket.
The NBA has taken steps to help keep players rested, and therefore (it hopes) healthy. The all-star break was extended. This season has a reduction in backto-back games and sets of four games in five nights. More on that front is expected next season. The league has to eliminate those altogether.
“That’s when guys rest — on the four-in-fives, on the back-tobacks,” Malone said. “That’s when coaches are holding out their players.”
When the NBA does, when there is at least one day of rest between most games, the league can feel free to require that teams always put healthy players on the court. Because, now that it has done right by its players, that’s in turn the right thing to do by its ever-growing fan base. And, in the end, everyone