I get it. Back in the day for the NBA, players rested less. They played all 82 games in a season and did not complain. I respect a player that goes out there and performs each night they are asked to by their coaches.
But this is 2017. Only one thing matters and that’s a championship.
Now do I agree with that? That a person’s career is defined by the number of championships that they hold? Not at all. There are many great players not only in the NBA, but many sports that never won a championship, but are still the best players to walk the earth. Auburn great Charles Barkley was a 11-time All-Star, MVP in the 1993 season and on the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. Barry Bonds was a 14-time All-Star, won seven National League MVPs, eight-time Gold Glove winner and 12-time Silver Slugger winner. Dan Marino was the 1984 NFL MVP, a 9-time Pro Bowl selection and set 29 NFL records before he retired in 1999.
Combined, they have zero championships, but does that diminish who they are?
But that is what the discussion is all about these days. LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world. When his career ends, there will be comparisons to Michael Jordan about who was better. And you know what question will come up first?
How many NBA Championships did each win?
Not the numbers. Not the individual awards. Not their play style. But their total championships that they won. Something that they cannot attain alone. Something that they must rely on others to help them attain. Whenever we talk about athletes and their careers, it always comes back to championships. That is the culture that we live in, like it or not.
That brings us to this NBA season. Over the past month, many have chimed in giving their take on players getting days off and resting. Even Adam Silver, the Commissioner for the NBA, sent a memo to teams stating the importance of players playing the game. In the memo, Silver stated that resting marquee players is “an extremely significant issue for out league”. The topic would be a focal point in discussion at the next NBA board of governors meeting April 6th in New York and said that “significant penalties” could occur for teams that do not follow the league’s rule for providing “notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest.”
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the NBA is upset. You had this nationally televised game on a big network draw low ratings because players rested. When the ratings are low, it messes with the money that the NBA brings in. Ask North Carolina and the HB2 law. Whether you agree with the law or not, when you mess with the money of big corporations, they are never happy about it.
But why would teams notify other teams that their star players aren’t playing? Why do teams have to notify the media that a player is not playing ahead of time because of rest? No other sports have this criteria or problem. If there is any problem in the NBA about rest, the NBA needs to look in the mirror and come to a self-realization. Teams are doing what needs to be done to win championships, whether the NBA likes it or not.
The problem blew up when the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs sat their star players for a March 11th game on ABC. The Warriors rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Kevin Durant did not play as he was out with an injury. The Spurs were without LaMarcus Aldridge has he dealt with a heart problem and Kawhi Leonard, who was going through concussion protocol. “It’s my call and it’s the right thing to do in terms of the way the season is playing out and the way the minutes have gone…” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said when he announced the decision.
A week later, the Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, also on ABC. The Cavs were on a four-game road trip, LeBron logged heavy minutes throughout the season, Irving picked up an injury a couple of days earlier and Love was coming off knee surgery. Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said a league representative called him minutes after the decision to express their displeasure with the team. ABC commentator Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy were also not too pleased with what happened.
“I understand the medical information that we are acquiring,” Jackson said. “I even understand that we are getting more and more data to protect the players, but this still is an absolute joke. Who is protecting the fans? Who is protecting the game of basketball? Something’s gotta be done.”
“If this was any other business, it would be a prosecutable offense — this type of bait-and-switch maneuver that the NBA allows its teams to pull,” Van Gundy added. “Quite frankly, if you look at the athletic performance teams, these groups that are supposedly preventing injury, when I look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’ve been injured all year, so how good are they doing at what they say the can accomplish?”
Let’s put this in perspective. Your career is defined by how many NBA Championships you win in this day in age. The NBA has been asked for years by players and coaches to fix the packed schedule that features back to back games and long road trips that take their toll on players. The season is long and grueling so your coach decides to sit you for a game not because he does not want you to play, but because you are playing for a bigger goal, the NBA Finals. That is now the strategy in the path to the championship. Whether this is good for the NBA or not, one thing is for certain.
This is what the NBA is now. Win the NBA Finals at any cost. The Spurs were fined $250,000 in 2012 by then commissioner David Stern when they rested Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green. If that is how teams are treated when they look out for players’ health, like the Cavs did with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, or when giving a player time off after a ridiculous schedule like they did with LeBron James, then quite frankly, the NBA must not have any other problems to address because those are minimal at best.
Gregg Popovich has won five NBA titles with the Spurs and Steve Kerr has been to back to back NBA Finals in his first two years has the head coach of the Warriors, winning one. I think I am going to leave it up to the top two coaches in the league on how to treat their players. Championships are all that matter, right?
Flash the hardware boys.