One of the biggest topics of debate last season in the NBA was over player rest. The most notable examples of big players resting in big games came in March when on back-to-back week’s, ABC’s primetime Saturday night game featured top teams playing without their stars.
The Warriors and Spurs both rested the majority of their best players in a March 11 meeting and a week later the Cavaliers did the same with LeBron James and others in a matchup with the Clippers. In both, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy went off about how ridiculous it was that the best players would be held out of these games and the rest wouldn’t, at the least, be staggered.
Those games became a jumping off point for a debate that raged through the start of the playoffs, as the top teams kept their best players fresh for the postseason. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has noted that he was concerned about the issue of fans being upset that stars are being rested, and the league made significant changes to the schedule structure to try and make rest a less significant issue, especially before national broadcast games.
National televised games will now be clear of any back-to-backs — either the front or back end of them — and the league has eliminated all four game in five night stretches for all 30 teams. That, in theory, will help limit the need for rest, but just in case it doesn’t fix everything, there will reportedly be new rules put in place to punish teams for resting players, according to USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt.
NBA owners are expected to approve player-resting rules in September designed to cut back on teams benching healthy players for regular-season games, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
Zillgitt notes that Silver has hinted at the possibility of a rule being put in place about resting healthy players in regular season games, but its unknown what the possible punishments will be. A fine seems like the most likely scenario, but teams could very well justify spending that fine money if they think rest will give them an advantage in the playoffs — where they can recoup that money by going deeper.
Based on Silver’s comments from an NBA Finals press conference, via Zillgitt, you can assume that rules put in place regarding rest will likely target teams resting healthy players on road games and for major national TV games.
“There is a recognition from teams that on one hand a certain amount of resting is just inevitable and appropriate to keep the players healthy, but that they shouldn’t be resting multiple starters on the same night,” Silver told reporters at his NBA Finals news conference. “And, incidentally, wherever possible, they should rest at home. Because there, while I feel for the home fans, just as much as the away fans, the away fans may only get a chance to see that team once. And of course, the home team home fans can see that team many times.”
LeBron James has previously noted that there’s not much the NBA can do about stopping players from resting, but it looks like the league will do its best to keep it from being as prevalent next season. The most obvious workaround for these new rules regarding healthy scratches is for stars to be listed with minor muscle strains or illnesses in order to circumvent any new rules.