Resting superstars might not be an issue if the NBA was willing to shorten the 82-game regular season.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr shared that opinion amidst the ongoing conversation around backlash from the league office and fans over the number of games off granted to the NBA's premier players. When a reporter questioned whether Kerr, whose players have topped 200 total games played the past two seasons including the postseason, might pass up a portion of his salary if the NBA shortened the season, he didn't hesitate.
"I wouldn't be opposed to it, even at the expense to my own salary, but it's something that everyone would have to agree to," Kerr said. "I think even just going down to 75 games, I think that would make a dramatic difference in schedule. Now I don't see that happening because there is money at stake for everybody."
The NBA plans to stretch the regular season over seven more days in 2017-18 to accommodate players. Preseason game schedules were also tightened.
Several teams, following a trend established by the San Antonio Spurs, are resting key players and some of the off days are rubbing NBA commissioner Adam Silver the wrong way. He sent a memo to team owners asking them to get involved in decisions to rest players who help propel the turnstiles across the NBA.
"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 Kerr and the 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. The primetime contests are a shift in scheduling established in 2016, when the NBA reached a landmark broadcast and digital content deal with multiple partners.
ESPN, one of the NBA's media partners and the Disney-family relative 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," ESPN's 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."
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.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich plans no changes to his playing time decisions. Popovich stressed in previous seasons when pressed on the topic that managing injuries and player health is more of a concern than pleasing any fanbase.
"There is still no rule because it's a bucket of worms," Popovich said Tuesday. " And it's hard to make a rule. I think the league has to understand the science of what we do is a whole lot more sophisticated than it used to be. We have definitely added years to people's (careers). So it's a trade-off. You want to see this guy in this one game? Or do you want to see him for three more years in his career."