TNT analyst and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley appeared on First Take Tuesday morning and said something wild. Shocker. While some might take offense to what Sir Charles said, he did have a point. Barkley hasn’t been shy in sharing his thoughts on load management over the years. While on First Take with Stephen A. Smith, the subject was posed to Barkley, and the round mound of rebound didn’t hold back.
“You can’t make $30, $40, $50 million and then sit out games. I think it’s disrespectful to the game, I think it’s disrespectful to the fans.”
On the surface, some will see this as a bitter “old head” hating on this era of NBA stars. And while you can’t blame every player for this load management issue in the association, its biggest stars have been the culprits in most instances. It’s a topic that never settles because we’ve seen it too many times during the regular season for the past decade.
Who’s really to blame?
It’s gotten to the point where lines are so blurred that we often don’t know if a player is seriously injured or managing his load. No one wants to say outright that players aren’t entirely forthcoming with injury status, but they shouldn’t be held solely accountable. Warriors superstar Stephen Curry recently spilled the beans for those unaware of the organization’s involvement in players sitting out games.
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“I usually campaign to play every game,” Curry said. “That’s the misconception about load management and how it goes. It’s never a player saying, ‘Hey, I want to sit.’ So for all of the people who are worried about that part of our league and all of that, it’s usually not the player who is going to the training staff and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t have it tonight.’ It’s usually the other way around.”
While this could be true in Curry’s case about wanting to play every game, I’m not sure he speaks for every player. Indeed, the team has a large say in determining who plays or sits, but sometimes players sit out games after some mysterious injury occurs that didn’t seem to be present beforehand. It’s a dicey subject because no one involved wants to accuse players (mainly stars) of faking it.
Either way, Barkley has a point, and the NBA has a problem with no clear solution. Reducing games on the schedule is an idea that has been floated for years, but that would mean giving money back to networks, and no company is engaging in that practice. You can’t really punish players for this because not all injuries are created equally. Some injuries are minor, but as a precaution, teams sit guys out periodically for “rest.” The injury is there, but the level is uncertain, so teams might err on the side of caution. Indeed, they could be looking out for the players and the team’s interests, but then the fans get screwed.
Adam Silver’s time to shine
When the next CBA rolls around, we’re likely headed for a lockout of the players until something can be figured out concerning load management and players forcing their way off teams with multiple years remaining on contracts. That’s another issue that’ll be dealt with soon.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver will need to get creative in doing away with load management. When Silver took over from David Stern, he took the opposite side from his predecessor and became the player’s commish. Over time that seems to have blown up in his face. It’ll be tough to take Stern’s approach of ruling with an iron fist at this point.
You may not like what Barkley said, but if you’re a fan who spends money to see big-name players when they come to play your team, only to find out the day of the game they won’t be suiting up, then you’re probably in line with Sir Charles. If Silver can’t rectify this problem soon, it could define far more of his legacy as commissioner than it should.