Is this the last time we’ll see “Did Not Play-Rest” in a box score?
In response to the growing trend of resting star players, NBA owners are expected to approve a new set of rules in September that would govern such behavior from teams and coaches, according to USA Today Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt.
The new rules would attempt to reduce times that teams rest healthy players, especially for nationally televised games and other highly anticipated matchups. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has hinted that the rules may involve not resting multiple stars during a single game or not resting starters on the road.
Contention between the NBA and teams has ramped up, along with the actual number of players who are rested during the regular season. Yes, it mostly applies to the teams at the top, which have the luxury of resting players. But those same teams have the biggest stars and the most nationally televised games, too. Five years ago, the NBA fined a team that rested players before thinking better of it. Now, it appears ready to take action once again.
The NBA is doing its part to reduce the number of games, too. This NBA season will begin about a week earlier than last year, in mid-October. The league is taking “aggressive measures” to cut back on back-to-backs and is attempting to eliminate situations where a team must play a nationally televised game on the second night of two consecutive games.
The league also sent a memo to teams talking about the improvements to this year’s schedule. As reported by ESPN, the memo included these talking points:
• Eliminating stretches of four games in five days and 18 games in 30 days.
• Reduction of five games in seven nights to just 40 instances across (1.3 per team), down from last year when it was on the schedule 90 times (three per team).
• Reduction in number of back-to-backs to 14.9 per team, down from 16.3 per team. In all, 40 back-to-backs have been eliminated from last season.
• Reduction of single-game road trips by 17 percent.
• Reduction in single-game road trips over 2,000 miles by 67 percent; there are only 11 of them on schedule.
• Increase in weekend games from 549 to 568, much of the boost coming on Saturdays. Previously the NBA avoided Saturdays and Sunday afternoons during football season to dodge conflicts.
However, the new schedule clearly comes with expectations from the NBA that a team’s star players will suit up during important games. It’s not clear how the NBA hopes to implement the rule — it seems likely that teams that want to rest players could make up an injury or attribute the rest to an ailment that a player would otherwise have played through. But because it’s a two-way street and the NBA has done its part to eliminate difficult scheduling quirks, teams may be inclined to do the same.
“There is an expectation among partners that teams are going to act in appropriate ways, (and) find, as I said, that right balance between resting on one hand and obligations to fans and partners on the other,” Silver said in an April press conference.
This season will determine whether this is the right balance.