A couple years ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver received power to fine teams for resting players in nationally televised games. Teams were also encouraged not to rest players on the road.
Well, the Clippers visit the Jazz for a nationally televised game tonight.
Yet, Kawhi Leonard won’t play – despite a glowing bill of health from Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
The Clippers are officially listing Leonard as out due to “load management, knee,” satisfying the NBA’s new requirement to list a specific body part. However, Rivers said Leonard “has never felt better.”
The Clippers notified the NBA of their plans in advance and are in compliance with the league, according to Rachel Nichols of ESPN.
So, what’s the point of the rule? This just opens the door selective enforcement and accusations of such.
The Clippers host the Spurs tomorrow, and that could factor. There’s more intrigue with Leonard facing his former team (which he left on bad terms) than seeing Leonard play Utah. This looks like a scheduling error, putting the Clippers on national television in the first leg of a back-to-back with the second game more interesting (though San Antonio at L.A. is not nationally televised).
But there will never be perfect scheduling. The underlying issues remain. Both owners and players collectively want the revenue of an 82-game schedule. However, individual teams don’t want to put their stars through the rigors of an 82-game schedule. The Clippers’ best chance of winning a championship means resting Leonard during the regular season and saving him for the playoffs. In the long run, Leonard missing one nationally televised game is a drop in the bucket. But many other teams are making the same calculations with their star players. These absences will add up.
And other teams will wonder if they’ll get the same leniency the Clippers received tonight.