The Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a big, national TV game, so not having Cleveland’s most important players drew the ire of both the league office and Hall of Fame forward Karl Malone.
But it also triggered an important discussion about NBA scheduling that Clippers coach Doc Rivers weighed in on after LA beat the Cavaliers, 108-78.
Speaking to ESPN, Rivers said the schedule needs to be worked out to benefit a reduced workload for players while maintaining the overall product for fans.
“We have to protect our product,” Rivers said. “It’s hard. It’s impossible, if you actually knew what went into scheduling, but the look of back-to-back ABC national games — it’s not good.”
“I hate it for the fans,” Rivers said. “I really do. I hate it. I do it. We all do it. I mean, it’s bad. And I did it the other night in Denver. There are people with Blake and DJ jerseys all over the place.”
The discussion could go off the rails, but really what we’re talking about here is the ability of the NBA to keep fans interested in big, primetime regular season games while still allowing teams to chase the ultimate goal of a championship.
Fans want to see their teams win, and they want to see their teams in person. They shouldn’t have to choose between the two. But it’s become increasingly common in the past few seasons for star players to get rest during the season, and during critical games. What was once thought of as a quaint characteristic of the San Antonio Spurs has now become part of a winning strategy for top teams.
Rivers said he thinks they should eliminate some of the scheduling around how primetime games are handled, “I think we have to treat those games like they’re afternoon games and you don’t play the night before,” said Rivers. “And then you don’t play the next night after.”
That would make more sense. Malone is out of order if he thinks every player should be able to put up his iron man game log. Ironically, perhaps only LeBron in the modern era could be compared to Malone. But it would be nice for folks who spend their Saturday trying to get tickets, or who arrange a social event around watching the game, to not have to worry about whether they’re going to get a combined 35 minutes from DeAndre Liggins and James Jones instead of Kyrie and the King.