You may have missed it because the NCAA Tournament was happening last night, but there was also some NBA basketball on national television. The Cavaliers squared off with the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Don’t worry, though—you didn’t miss much. The Cavs rested their “big three” of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, and the Clippers won by 30.
Resting your stars is a growing trend in the NBA, particularly as teams embark on grueling road trips that can weigh on a player’s body throughout an 82-game season. That doesn’t mean people like the trend, though. The league in particular dislikes it.
Cavs general manager David Griffin said the league called him quickly after it was announced that the Big 3 would not be playing Saturday night.
When did the league call? Griff: "Seven minutes after it was announced. Yeah, they were not happy."— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) March 19, 2017
Clippers coach Doc Rivers didn’t like it at all. He shared the common "this hurts the fans" argument.
“There is a fan base that probably bought tickets tonight to see LeBron James play for the first time,” Rivers said. “They didn’t get a chance to see that, and that’s not cool.”
The Cavs got ethered by ESPN analysts and former NBA head coaches Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Check out their remarks (which begin at the :35 mark) in the below video.
Jackson called it an “absolute joke” and Van Gundy said, “if this was any other business, it would be a prosecutable offense.”
The folks at ABC aren't too happy about the Cavs sitting LeBron, Kyrie + Love tonight. pic.twitter.com/jeaho7Bjzq— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) March 19, 2017
It’s a conflicting situation. The primary goal of an NBA organization is to win games and, ultimately, championships. Resting your stars in meaningless games undoubtedly helps you win.
But it’s also a goal to generate entertainment revenue and increase fan engagement. Resting your stars plays a negative part in those areas. And it hurts the NBA's partners (like ESPN).
As the playoffs near, there’s no chance this is the last we hear of this debate. And the debate will probably rage on until the league takes action and shortens its ridiculously long regular season.