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NBA Owners Decry ‘Load Management’

The billionaire team owners are called “governors” of the National Basketball Association. The mouthpiece hired by the governors to advance their interests is called “the commissioner.” Players getting time off during the season to rest and recuperate is called “load management.” 

The “regular” season is 82 games long, followed by an extended playoff series. This year the league is adding an absurd “in-season tournament” in November. 

The NBA board of governors has decreed that teams “must ensure star players are available for national television and In-Season Tournament games and must maintain a balance between the number of one-game absences for a star player in road and home games, with a preference for such absences to occur at home.” 

With the “pre-season” about to begin, the commissioner, a sepulchral lawyer named Adam Silver, held a press conference to decry the practice of load management. He claimed to be speaking on behalf of “the fans.” The Times devoted a full page to Silver’s cruel blither. A photo showed LeBron James and Anthony Davis sitting on the bench in street clothes during a Lakers game. (“The NBA would like to see a lot less of this,” said the caption.) 

The story, written by Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (a non-union website) could not have been more owner-friendly: “For the past several years it has not been clear if the NBA fully understood the damage that the league and players were creating as a result of the load management that was becoming more and more fashionable… When commissioner Adam Silver stood behind a podium last week to discuss the league’s new fight against load management, it was a recognition of the precarious position the league finds itself in with fans and television partners.”

In recent years the NBA has reported higher and higher ticket sales and season-ticket renewals. Real fans understand how rough the game is and know that by mid-season almost all the starters have jammed fingers, sprained and strained knees, ankles, shoulders and backs. Real fans appreciate a chance to see Jonathon Kuminga if Draymond Green can’t play. (Last year Green played in 73 games, despite injuries that never fully healed.)

Adam Silver had the nerve to imply that load management could be a cover for malingering, or some kind of status symbol. “This is an acknowledgment that it’s gotten away from us a bit,” he blithered, “and that, particularly I think when you see young, healthy players who are resting and it becomes maybe even more a notion of stature around the league as opposed to absolute needed rest, or it’s part of being an NBA player that you rest on certain days.”

According to Krawczynski of the Athletic/Times: “It was quite the populist stance for Silver to take. Fans have belabored the practice of resting healthy players for years.” 

Belabored? Populist? Adam Silver takes his marching orders from the NBA’s board of governors, not the fans. At one point he described the TV moguls as “a proxy for fans.” His stance was the opposite of “populist.” 

Although Krawcynski has no sympathy for “healthy players” who get undeserved nights off, he does feel sorry for the broadcasters who might lose viewers as a result: “One would assume executives for ESPN and TNT weren’t happy either when those players sat out games in which they paid billions to broadcast.”

Undoubtedly there are some who would turn off a Bucks game if Giannis isn’t in the line-up, but a more likely reason to stop watching is an early blow-out. This problem can be mitigated somewhat by the referees, and they don’t even have to be told how much is riding on the score remaining close. 

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