Fans and the NBA's television partners are voicing displeasure at teams' practice of resting star players, and commissioner Adam Silver responded Monday by sending a memo to team owners in which he called the sitting of marquee players "an extremely significant issue for our league."
A copy of the memo was obtained by ESPN and USA Today, and in it Silver said the issue of resting players would be a topic at the next NBA Board of Governors meeting April 6. He alerted teams that "significant penalties" would be meted out on teams that do not abide by the league's rules that require teams to give "notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest."
It is not clear what those penalties might be.
Silver added that owners must be involved and cannot simply defer decision-making on this issue to others who may not be aware of the impact that sitting star players has on fans and business partners.
"Decisions of this kind do not merely implicate issues of player health and team performance on the court; they also can affect fans and business partners, impact our reputation, and damage the perception of our game," Silver states in the memo. "With so much at stake, it is simply not acceptable for Governors to be uninvolved or to defer decision-making authority on these matters to others in their organizations."
A week after the Golden State Warriors rested Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala against the San Antonio Spurs on a Saturday ABC game, the Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love against the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday in another ABC game.
On Monday, ESPN, a media partner of ABC, released a statement.
"As always, our aim is to serve NBA fans with the best matchups involving the league's top stars and we share the fans' disappointment," the statement read. "We understand this is a complex issue and we're working closely with the NBA to best address it going forward from a media partnership standpoint."
Golden State coach Steve Kerr told ESPN that his decision to rest players was based on the best way to get through a stretch of eight games in eight cities in 13 days that included 11,000 miles of air travel.
Silver said last month that reducing the number of preseason games was put into the new collective bargaining agreement to address the issue of resting players and help reduce injuries.