First and most definitely foremost, rest in paradise to the legendary John Witherspoon, better known in the pop culture world as Pops. His contributions to black television and cinema will forever be immortalized in not just black culture but American culture as well. I used one of his many memorable quotes from Friday as a title for this post to talk about….load management. Load management has become a very common term in today’s sports world especially the NBA. Essentially it means that a player or players will be resting. Kawhi Leonard catches a lot of flak for the whole load management thing, going back to his final year with the Spurs. Although a tough decision, Leonard chose his long-term health over a possible championship that season. The same happened in his lone year in Toronto, but they were able to win a championship. Other stars have taken games off due to load management as well.
It’s common to rest players towards the end of the regular season when coaches don’t want to risk injury to key players as they prepare for the playoffs. However, it is very uncommon for this to occur in week 3 of the regular season. So who’s really to blame for the influx of load management? To be honest, everyone is to blame: the league, the media, the players, and the fans.
The load management thing really came to be during the 2012-2013 NBA season when the San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave his star players, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green the game off. That game was a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat on TNT. Popovich was fined $250K by the league for the act, which would then establish the rule on resting healthy players. However, that rule is rarely followed. Where was the fine in 2017 for the Cleveland Cavaliers when LeBron James decided to sit out a regular season game against the Memphis Grizzlies? A game that would be LeBron James’ only appearance in FedEx Forum for that entire season. Guess it only matters when it affects their bottom line, i.e. the TV deal.
Media and fans take the blame for practically disregarding down the regular season because nowadays because players aren’t measured on how great they are on the court, but how many championships they win. This notion has sparked ridiculous takes such as Robert Horry being better than Michael Jordan due to having more rings. Media and fans only judge a player’s greatness on the court if they so happened to win championships. If players never reach the top, it is not until well after retirement or if the person is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame where greatness for their skill set is recognized. That is just how society is viewed. It is extremely results oriented as opposed to the process.
In terms of the players, the ultimate cliché that you hear from athletes is being able to do what they love professionally. These players are paid a tremendous amount of money to play basketball. I’m also aware that players have to do what is best for them and their long-term health. I’m not a pro athlete, but I’m sure to be great at what you do, you have to train. Do players today still conduct strength training to be able to withstand a strenuous regular season? Also just like the average person, you suffer from work burnout and need time to rest and recuperate. The players are more skilled than the past and they are smarter as well. If the media and fans do not care about the regular season, then why should the players?
In the end, everyone is right and everyone is wrong with their stance on load management. The best solution to all of this is simple, eliminate back to back games completely and shorten the season. Also, the league needs to also issue fines for load management everywhere and not just where there’s nationally televised games. The media and fans should learn to appreciate the players while they are playing now in their primes because everyone will retire at some point. “You gotta COORDINATE.” Ok I’m done with the John Witherspoon quotes, peace!
Be sure you check out the Let’s Be Real podcast on all podcasting platforms and check out this week’s episode “History & Hangovers”
-Trevor Shipp, Co-Host