Adam Silver: ‘a certain amount of (player) resting is just inevitable’ but league seeks reduction

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OAKLAND — The NBA is stuck in the middle on the rest issue. With no good answers.

It showed when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver tried to sound like a guy with answers when he the topic came up Thursday night at his annual press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals

One one hand, players resting during the season both decreases the chance of injury and increases the quality of play. The data on this is irrefutable, and for a league that has repeatedly said player health is a priority they can’t then force guys to play.

“What we’re learning, I mean, back to your point about the science and the data, is that it’s not 82 games, it’s not the length of the season, it’s the time between the games and that there’s a direct correlation between fatigue and injury on the part of the players,” Silver said.

However, it’s also a bad look for the league when multiple stars from elite teams are rested on the road or for nationally televised games. It was an embarrassing talking point for the league during the season.

“We had a good discussion with our teams at our last owners meeting, which was in April, and I think there is a recognition from teams that on one hand a certain amount of resting is just inevitable and appropriate to keep the players healthy, but that they shouldn’t be resting multiple starters on the same night,” Silver said. “And, incidentally, wherever possible, they should rest at home.”

Good luck getting teams to rest guys more at home (in part because on the road is when games tend to be clumped, not at home).

Silver discussed a couple of ways to reduce the number of back-to-backs and eliminate the number of four-games-in-five-nights situations on the road that lead to rest nights.

“One of the ways we’re going to solve the problem is we agreed with the union to add a week to the regular season for next year,” Silver said, referring to the recent CBA negotiations. “We haven’t done that yet. So a same number of games spread out over an additional week.”

The question was asked if one week was enough. Silver said the players’ union was willing to go further, but, “My desire is not to be giving this press conference in July. That’s the issue.”

The extra week was common knowledge, what was new was the league working with arenas to free up more dates.

“We are also requiring our arenas to free up more dates,” Silver said. “We’re competing against everything else that happens in these buildings, so you can only imagine the number of permutations that go into the computer program. But if we can ask them to hold yet additional nights, that also enables us to create more space between the games.”

Silver also tried to put the rest issue into better historical context — guys were rested in the past, they were just listed as out with a sore ankle/back/whatever.

“Resting in itself is not a new issue in this league,” Silver said. “I mean, part of the difficulty in making the comparisons from our historical seasons is that we didn’t used to have a category called DNP, do not play, resting. That’s only three years old on the stat sheet.

“But when you look back at the actual number of games — just taking All-Stars as a sample of players, over 30 years, our All-Stars are playing just about the same number of games this past season than they did 30 years ago.

“And I would also say back to those fans that here we are going into The Finals with a No. 1 seed in the West, No. 2 seed in the East, two teams that obviously had tremendous regular seasons, and every player is healthy.”

True, but we should note one of the reasons both of these teams cruised so easily into the playoffs were injuries to their opponents. Both the Warriors and Cavaliers benefited from injuries to multiple teams they played — the Warriors faced a Portland team without a healthy Jusuf Nurkic, a Utah team without a healthy George Hill, then, of course, the Kawhi Leonard injury with the Spurs (which was not a rest issue).

“I don’t necessarily think the fan benefits by somehow if the league could require a player who wasn’t injured but was banged up to play in a game when the trainers felt that player needed rest,” Silver said. “I don’t think the fan benefits by requiring that player to play and then that player getting injured.”

Silver is right. He also runs an entertainment business, one that too often does not put out its best product in front of the fans because coaches and GMs — understandably — are thinking big picture and not about the short-term optics.

There is no easy answer here. Silver and the league are doing what they can, but rest is here to stay. The league just needs to find a way to improve the optics.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.