It’s possible NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is not going to get his way on lottery reform. He most likely will, a majority of owners voted for it two years ago (but it needed a two-thirds supermajority), and now Silver is selling this new, less drastic version as something the league needs from a public relations standpoint. But once those owners of small and mid-sized market teams get in a room, they may be hesitant to vote for something that hurts them more than big markets.
What we know those owners will vote for is to give Silver real power to fine teams who sit multiple star players for a game, or who give a healthy scratch to a player in a big nationally televised game. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN put it this way.
And make no mistake: Silver will be aggressive in making sure he gets the two-thirds majority of the owners’ votes needed to fine teams for sitting healthy star players in national television games or multiple healthy starters in regular-season games, and for failing to make a star player sitting out visually accessible to fans on the bench…
While yes, the NBA is sensitive to the ticket-buying public losing out on the chance to see LeBron James or Stephen Curry on a once-a-season trip out of their conference, this is ultimately a television-revenue issue. The network games on ABC, ESPN and TNT were punctured when the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs turned national appearances into split-squad spring training games. Silver has been hellbent on a solution…
The resting rules have been met with little resistance. Silver has mostly sold it to owners as an economic issue. He has warned that the NBA’s future revenues and growth are directly tied to solving the resting issue, because that problem ultimately threatens regular-season and playoff ratings — never mind the cumulative cost of eroding interest in the sport.
We can debate if regular season player rest would impact postseason playoff ratings, but the rest of high-profile players in high-profile games is legit. I’m fortunate enough to be a guest on a number of sports talk radio shows around the nation during the NBA season, and the issue of resting players is a constant topic and black eye for the league. I can make the case for why teams are smart to do it — multiple studies have shown rested players both perform better on the court and are less likely to be injured — but in a star-driven league, it just looks bad when fans can’t see who they paid or tuned in to watch. With the schedule spaced out more, Silver has leverage to push teams not to sit guys for the most high-profile games. This is not a cure-all — if a team wants to rest a player they still will, they will just say the player has a sore ankle or back and needs the night off — but it’s a good step.
Resting players is a much bigger PR issue than tanking, and on this one Silver will get his way.