Rest as­sured, fans pay to see healthy play­ers play

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey, The Den­ver Post Christo­pher Dempsey: cdempsey @den­ver­post.com or @dempsey­post

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

wins.

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