Memphis Grizzlies fans who bought tickets to see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night got a rude awakening when they found out all three were taking the game off.
Were they hurt? Nope. They got the night for rest. Consider it PTO, or R&R.
The result was an ugly combination of reserves putting up 53 points after three quarters. Memphis won, but fans didn't get what they thought they paid good money to see.
NBA.com's Steve Aschburner had friends at the game as a birthday present for a kid. All the kid's birthday request was to see LeBron play in person. One-thousand dollars and five hours of travel later and the kid didn't even get to see LeBron, much less see him play, because the Cavs' trio stayed home in Cleveland.
Kevin McHale, the former Gopher player and Wolves coach, can't stand it.
“This rest stuff just drives me crazy,” McHale told NESN earlier this year. “You’re playing basketball for a living, OK? I understand, if you work in a coal mine, that you may need a rest day. You’re playing basketball."
Michael Jordan played in all 82 games eight times in his career, including the season the Bulls won 72 games and as a 39-year-old in his final season with the Wizards.
Blame the league
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 for a similar stunt in 2012. But current commish, Adam Silver, avoids micromanaging teams.
"I’m super-reluctant to start telling these great coaches how they should manage minutes of players," he said in an interview with Sirius NBA Radio, according to Forbes.
Jim Ingraham of the Chronicle-Telegram says blame the league, not the coaches: "For this, blame game players can point their fingers at the NBA, not at the coaches. The NBA’s exhausting schedule, peppered with back-to-back games on consecutive days in different cities, only adds more gruel to the grueling schedule."
All three of Cleveland's trio played the night before and the Cavs whipped the Grizz at home. And in fairness, Memphis gave its best player, Marc Gasol, a rest day the night before in Cleveland.
Fan Rag Sports' Joseph Nardone thinks fans need to shut up and deal with it: "Players and their coaches know their bodies better than we do. Seriously, the hell if any of us know about the pain(s) any player in the NBA, feels 20-or-so games into the season."
Teams know more about a player's health now than ever before thanks to biometrics and analytics that track every move. The phenomenon took off in 2014 when Silver took over as commissioner, according to ESPN. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban agrees.
“As we get more scientifically driven you’ll see teams trying to play guys fewer minutes and fewer games because it protects their body," he said Wednesday, via the Star-Telegram. "If you protect a guy’s body fans get to see them in more games overall.”
Two other star players rested Wednesday as Sacramento gave DeMarcus Cousins the night off and the Spurs let LaMarcus Aldridge get some rest. The Kings were crushed by 34 points. The Spurs beat Boston at home, although comparing the Spurs and Kings rosters is night and day.
On Nov. 29 the Clippers gave Blake Griffin the night off in Brooklyn. But L.A. hadn't played the night before and didn't play again until two days later.
"I clearly didn't (make the decision) -- I'm not smart enough to use biometrics," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Forbes. "But the people we hired did, and they told me biometrically that this would be a good day for him to rest."
At least Wolves fans have nothing to complain about. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is known for grinding his players every day, and it shows with Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins both in the top 10 of minutes played this season.