NBA Rest: The Issue, Analysis, and Solution

The issue of NBA teams resting healthy superstar players has finally been acknowledged this week by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as being a major issue that the league is facing.  This trend was started roughly 5-6 years ago by Spurs Coach Greg Popovich and has been a growing trend throughout the Association in recent seasons.  Most notably this year, it has been the defending Conference Champions; both the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers giving their superstar players ‘rest nights’.

Despite the vast coverage this issue has recently received I have yet to hear some of the most important details explained properly.  It’s all in the specifics folks. I will outline this issue as completely and efficiently as I can and propose a solution that I believe would resolve this important integrity issue for the NBA.


Let’s start with this opinion- I don’t believe the correct solution would be to handcuff teams and make them completely unable to rest star players, if that’s what a coach/organization feels is best for their Championship aspirations.

However, that’s not what fans are upset about.

There’s a right and wrong method of going about giving a player a game off.  The enormous problem that the League is facing is due to 2 specific ways teams have been deploying ‘rest nights’.


(1)  When multiple starting players are all given the same night off, resulting in a good team fielding an uncompetitive lineup.

Let’s use the recent example of what the Warriors did in San Antonio on Saturday March 11th. This was a nationally televised game that should have been one of the highlights of the entire NBA season.

It would not have been an enormous deal if Steph Curry was given the night off to rest, and the Warriors otherwise fielded their best roster.  The major issue was created because Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala were all given the night off together!  (Superstar Kevin Durant was also missing due to injury).

The Warriors sat 4 healthy All-Star caliber players, and in doing so, made themselves completely uncompetitive for a game versus the 2nd best team in the NBA.  When this was announced Greg Popovich seized the opportunity to rest a few of the Spurs starting players, which was a logical move in response to the actions of Golden State.

The result of the Warriors actions, and the response by the Spurs turned what should have been a game-of-the-year candidate into a snoozefest of backup players.  Fans in San Antonio who had paid top-dollar for this game were robbed of their money. In no way did the fans at this game get what they paid for.


(2) Resting Players on the Road, results in hurting another Organization’s product and fanbase.

Notice when teams rest a bunch of their starting players its always on the road? Teams wouldn’t dare do this at home and piss off their own fans, so why has it become acceptable to do it to another fanbase?

Let’s use an example that happened in December.  The Cavaliers play all Western Conference opponents once per season on the road.  For most Western Conference teams, it’s a rarity to have LeBron James and the defending NBA Champions come to town.  LeBron was a healthy scratch on December 14th when the Cavaliers played at the Memphis Grizzlies.  In fact LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were all healthy and did not even make the trip to Memphis!  What a slap-in-the-face to those fans.

This hurts the small-market Grizzlies because that game was one of their most anticipated home games of the season and the only opportunity for fans to see the great King James. It also would have been one of their most expensive tickets of the season.


Proposed Solution 

It’s clear that there are 2 main specific integrity problems created when resting healthy players that need to be fixed by the NBA.

  1. Resting a group of starting players for the same game.
  2. Doing it on the road where it hurts another team’s product and fanbase.


Here is a logical and simple solution that I believe would immediately solve this significant problem:

A) Teams are no longer allowed to rest healthy players on the road. 

Major penalties to be handed down in the form of fines and even draft picks for teams who do this, and/or are expected of doing it through faked injuries. 

B) When playing at home, teams can elect to rest a maximum of 2 healthy players per game.


Additional Commentary

I’ve heard a couple interesting points that further show how wrong this new trend is and why fans ought to be livid.

1. The NHL plays the same 82-game schedule as the NBA, and has a slightly more condensed playoff schedule.

By all accounts hockey is more physically demanding than basketball- not to diminish the wear-and-tear of the NBA but in comparison to hockey it’s just not as battering on the body. So then, why is this not a problem in the NHL? Do superstars like Crosby, Ovechkin, Joe Thornton, etc. take games off when healthy? Not that I’ve heard of.


2. The NBA Playoffs are full of rest days.

The argument that players need to “rest for the playoff run” isn’t all that valid. During the playoffs, teams usually have 2 or 3 off-days in between games, and never any back-to-back nights.


3. NBA Players have it better now than ever before.

With team masseuses, nutritional doctors, chiropractors, fancy hotels, and private jets that fly them all over the continent NBA players have access to the best recovery strategies.  Heck, some players like Pat Millsap even sleep in a hyperbaric chamber. (Certainly something LeBron can afford).  NBA Superstars in the past didn’t take games off when healthy and they had a lot less amenities and accommodations than today’s superstars.


4. When healthy players rest it should be mandatory for them to sign autographs at the arena.

When given ‘rest nights’ would NBA players be willing to sign autographs for 3 hours at the arena as a substitute for devaluing the fans' ticket?  That might be a fair enough trade-off for the people who paid big money to see these stars play.  (I highly doubt it).


If you agree with True Champion’s take on this important integrity issue plaguing the NBA and hurting basketball fans please share this article!

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