By Nick Hession,
Sports Business Editor
NBA teams are under fire from fans, television providers and the league for their decisions to sit star players during prime-time games.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a memo to every team in the league addressing the teams’ decisions to rest star players on May 20. Silver cited teams’ reputations among fans and business partners as a primary concern when resting players, according to Tim Reynolds’s Associated Press article.
Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy condemned the Warriors’ and Cavaliers’ decisions to rest starters because it was an insult to fans. Van Gundy is a strong believer in making his players suit up for and try to win every game, according to Aaron McMann’s article for MLive.com. “Right now, what everybody says is, ‘I feel bad for the fans, I really do.’ Well, I’m not so sure about that,” Van Gundy said. “I think at times, we can be guilty for taking our fans for granted.”
The last two NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, prompted Silver’s reaction. The Cavaliers sat LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in their game on March 18 against the Los Angeles Clippers, despite only Love and Irving being injured, according to Reynolds.
The Warriors rested stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala in a nationally televised game on March 11, which resulted in a 107-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors were on a cold streak and the Spurs were right behind them in the conference standings at the time, but the Warriors felt that the rest was more important than the game, according to Tim Cato’s SB Nation article.
The Warriors played seven of their prior eight games on the road and five of those games against Eastern Conference teams, which added up to a lot of travel time. Ultimately, the team felt that resting their starters would prevent them from getting injured or exhausted before the end of the season, according to Cato.
“The Warriors don’t feel like home-court advantage is worth risking injury or burning out players during this especially brutal stretch of games,” Cato said. “Having home-court advantage throughout would be preferred, but the Warriors aren’t so desperate that they’ll wear out their stars during a particularly difficult stretch of games to get it.”
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant said he could see both sides of the issue in Marcus Kwesi O’Mard’s article for NESN.com.
“I understand what the fans are saying about buying tickets and not seeing their favorite players play,” Durant said, per ESPN’s Chris Haynes. “… As far as rest goes … I think mentally it does help when you get a day not to worry about basketball because we’re so consumed with the game 24/7,” Durant said.
The Warriors and Cavaliers, both of whom clinched playoff births, hope that resting their starters will lead to playoff success despite dissatisfaction from fans and ownership. The topic has certainly angered some fans, but those same fans might not be complaining if their team succeeds come playoff time.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 print edition.
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