It started out with Gregg Popovich not dressing his aging big three for an early season game against the Heat in 2012 to improve their chances of staying healthy and fresh for another long postseason run. There was an outcry from the fans and the Heat, and the Spurs were fined $250k for not informing the league or the Heat in a timely manner. Since then, Popovich has continued to rest his veteran stars on occasion, and people have pretty much just accepted it as part of what the Spurs do. They’ve done it for years now, and there have been people who support it and people who despise it. For the most part, though, it hasn’t really been a huge topic of discussion.
Gradually, other teams have decided to rest some of their big stars because the NBA season is long and grueling, and coaches see some wisdom in Popovich’s idea. A little rest throughout the season can go a long way for veteran stars with lots of miles on their legs. People seemed to quiet their stance on the subject until the Cavs decided to sit their big three against the Grizzlies earlier this year, and people around the league lost their collective minds. They claimed that the Cavs were doing the Grizzlies’ fans a huge disservice by sitting their stars on the only trip to Memphis for the year. Many people payed premium ticket prices for their only chance to see the reigning NBA Champions this season.
There were reports of people in Memphis being upset because they paid more money that game because they wanted to see the Cavs’ superstars. A story came out about a couple that spent a bunch of money on tickets for their son’s birthday, so he could go see his favorite players. While I can definitely see the fans’ displeasure and understand their feelings of being robbed of some great entertainment, I think Coach Tyronn Lue made some good points in defending his decision. He said his job is to win championships, and he is going to prioritize that over winning the second game of a back-to-back in December. He also said that his loyalty is to the Cavs’ fans first which is why he didn’t want to rest his star players at home.
People made their disappointment heard a few weeks ago when the Warriors sat out Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green in addition to the already injured Kevin Durant. The Spurs sat Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray with minor injuries when Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge already sitting for injuries. Even though that was a marquee matchup that became completely devoid of all even borderline star players, it didn’t get the blowback the Cavs received for sitting their big 3 against the Clippers this past week.
Warriors’ fans were all over twitter saying that the Cavs were cowards and making fun of them for needing rest in a move that came literally a couple of weeks after their five best players sat out against their best competition in the West. Outside of their rivals on the West Coast, other people around the league started to make a big deal about it as well.
Things seemed to get magnified when LeBron is involved, and everyone wants to come after him with excuses for why he’ll never be as good as Jordan. They say that MJ never needed rest, and he was so competitive that he never would’ve sat out. They fail to realize a few things. First of all, LeBron did not spend three years in college playing just over 30 games a year like Jordan did. Jordan also missed most of his second NBA season due to injury and took almost two entire years off in between his two three-peats.
LeBron has played a grueling 82-game schedule every year since he was 18 and has never missed any significant time due to injury. His teams go deep into the playoffs each year, and he has played in the NBA Finals six straight years and seven times overall. He has also played for Team USA in almost every international competition since he’s been in the league which has further cut into his rest and rehab time. He has a lot more wear-and-tear on his body, and one of the reasons his can handle it is because of the excellent care he takes of his body. He has made the league tons of money, and I think he deserves to have a night off every once in awhile if it helps him dominate his way through the playoffs and back to the NBA Finals for a ridiculous seventh straight year.
I think that resting players may cause issues for the NBA down the road if it continues to increase, and I can sympathize with fans that pay a lot of money and don’t get to see the superstars they want to. However, teams’ loyalties should be to their home fans when resting players, and they should do whatever they think will give them the best chance to win a title. The playoffs are the most important and entertaining part of the NBA season, and the ratings have been increasing on a yearly basis and making more money for everyone involved. That could change if players aren’t able to get the rest they need before settling in for a playoff run.
As for the Jordan-lovers and LeBron-haters, realize the two guys played in different eras and have both overcome different obstacles to accomplish the greatness they have achieved. You also need to realize that Jordan isn’t untouchable or without flaw, and LeBron still has plenty of time to improve his legacy, especially if he keeps taking care of his body.