Load management is going to happen in the NBA regardless of the league’s best efforts. Organizations have been taught to value the postseason over everything because of ringzzzzz culture, and that mindset only gets reinforced by teams like the Phoenix Suns busting their asses to win 64 games a year ago and didn’t make it past the second round.
However inexcusable the Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks was, the collective excuse was that Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Co. exerted too much energy trying to win on a night-in, night-out basis when they didn’t have to. The Suns had the best mark in the entire NBA by eight games, and could’ve forfeited a bevy of games to be 100 percent for the postseason.
Honestly, if franchises could forfeit games and not get fined, I think they would. The Nets caught a $25,000 ticket for “failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting” following a game last week that Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Nic Claxton, Royce O’Neale, and T.J. Warren all sat, and Brooklyn still won.
That’s overtly a fuck you to anybody tuning in via League Pass, and classifying it as an injury reporting violation seems like a loophole the NBA is using to passive-aggressively let teams know that they must follow proper procedure if they’re going to concede certain nights.
Miami also received a $25,000 fine after failing “to disclose an accurate game availability status for several players” prior to a matchup with the Thunder on Wednesday that they also won. Jimmy Butler and Gabe Vincent were the only notable guys not to play, but since the team’s injury report wasn’t updated on time with members of the Heat who did play, it was a fineable offense. I think the $25K had more to do with Butler randomly taking the night off as has been the case for his entire tenure in South Beach.
Miami responded just as passive-aggressively by listing all 14 players on their roster on the injury report before Saturday’s contest against San Antonio. The pettiness is nearing Real Housewives levels, and Adam Silver is partaking in an argument he’s not going to win.
Calls to shorten the season have gone unheeded, and so coaches — a lot of whom are former players — are siding with the players when they, or their bodies, indicate they need a day off.
If we’ve learned anything about professional sports leagues, it’s that owners are never in favor of fewer opportunities for profits, and players’ associations are not powerful, or capable, enough to shorten the season. This is the natural progression of the battle.
Unless the NBA is going to hire 30 independent doctors to verify every nagging ailment on the report, there’s no way of knowing what’s real and what’s rest. That also assumes the league can even do that, and my guess is they can’t.
The grind of the regular season is brutal. Steph Curry had missed three games prior to getting hurt, all of which basically were rest days as he probably could’ve given it a go if it mattered in the grand scheme, and what happened on a random night in Indiana? Curry busts up his shoulder, and will be out for the Christmas showcase. Anthony Davis missed the second half Friday night against Denver with a foot thing, and who knows how he’ll feel in a week.
Devin Booker has missed a couple of outings recently with hamstring tightness, and if I’m the Suns, I’m asking: How many games can we drop to make sure his hammy is good for the playoffs? Trading a few games in December to make sure you’re ready for April and May is a sign of a smart franchise, and even still injuries happen.
There’s not an exact science to it, and the league can’t just throw hissy fits and arbitrarily hand out fines when they feel like it. We know why teams rest players, we know why the season isn’t shorter, and it’s time for the NBA to accept reality.