The days of rampant load management and widespread shutting down veteran players are over. The NBA has decided to regulate player-resting, random and sometimes false injuries, and marquee players being scratched for national television games.
The league’s Board of Governors approved a Player Participation Policy, which sets rules for player rest and bans teams from shutting down star players in order to improve draft position unless they have a legitimate injury.
Here’s how the policy works: Teams can have no more than one star player unavailable in each game. For example, the Celtics will need Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown in all 82 games unless both are injured. The league requires star players — those who have played in an All-Star Game or made an All-NBA team in any of the last three seasons — to appear in all nationally televised and in-season tournament games.
Teams can no longer rest marquee players for major national games, meaning clubs will have to find a way to give veteran All-Stars breaks while showcasing them in significant games.
The NBA also will monitor when teams give star players rest on the road in comparison to at home. The league wants to prevent stars missing road games when their team makes only one visit per season. For example, the league wants to prevent players such as Tatum, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry from sitting out interconference games.
And finally, the league wants to ensure players who are being rested show up to the arena and sit on the bench.
How the NBA plans to implement these rules remains to be seen, but teams will have to monitor what star player rests when, for how long, and for what reason. If teams break the rules, fines will be levied.
“The Player Participation Policy is part of many steps we’ve taken. Whether it’s in the bargaining agreement itself, the 65-game limit for eligibility for awards, creating different incentives for players, like the play-in tournament, for example, like the in-season tournament, to focus attention on the regular season,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “But the policy itself, the Players Association was very much a part of it. We had extensive discussions with them. Then with individual groups of players, particularly veterans in the league, about how they thought we should be approaching it.
“I do worry about infringing on how a team operates. I think we’ll state this principle, see how teams react, and see if more needs to be done.”
Silver said these rules were a byproduct of teams and players hindering the fan experience with random contrived injuries. Teams can still rest players, especially non-stars, but the days of players such as Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Kyrie Irving being excused for no reason are over.
“There’s a sense from all the different constituent groups in the league that this is ultimately about the fans and that we’ve taken this too far,” Silver said. “This is an acknowledgment that it’s gotten away from us a bit, particularly I think when you see young, healthy players who are resting, and it becomes maybe even more a notion of stature around the league as opposed to absolute needed rest, or it’s just part of being a NBA player that you rest on certain days. That’s what we’re trying to move away from.”
Silver has maintained that even when teams were allowed to load manage with no supervision, major injuries did not decrease. In other words, rest does not equal good health.
“That’s what I’d been told as well, that it was the science,” Silver said. “I think it may be why the league didn’t become involved maybe as deeply as we should have earlier on. Part of the discussion today was about the science and, frankly, the science is inconclusive. I think — and I said this before — if the science were clearer that players should be resting, we would be favoring it.
“What we talked about is that the correlation — putting aside causation — isn’t there. Even with players who have participated in summer competitions like World Cups and Olympics, they are not more likely to get injured in that season. We don’t see any statistical data suggesting that players increase their likelihood of getting injured as they go further along in the season. Or even in back-to-backs, which may surprise people.
“One thing I want to make clear, the message to our teams and players is not that rest is never appropriate.”
And let’s be honest. With a new television deal approaching where Apple, Amazon, NBC, and even YouTube TV may make bids, the NBA wants to be as attractive a product as possible, meaning star players appearing in every big game.
“I think at least in the first instance in terms of this policy, we’re trying to deal with some of the most egregious examples, where multiple star players, for example, healthy, healthy, all out on the same night,” Silver said. “I think we’re letting down the fans, we’re letting down our partners by doing that.”
FORGING A NEW PATH
a thing of past?
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said privately that he resents players who make public trade demands, especially to a particular team, such as the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard. But here we are with two of the league’s premier players, Lillard and James Harden, still wanting out.
Lillard wants to play for the Heat. Harden wants to leave the 76ers for the Clippers. No deals are close and both may have to report to training camp.
“In terms of trade demands, of course, don’t like them,” Silver said. “As a league, we want players and teams to honor their contracts. I’m watching both the situation in Portland and Philadelphia and hope they get worked out to the satisfaction of everyone before the season starts. I’m glad that things seem to have settled down somewhat at least in terms of public discourse.”
Meanwhile, the constraints of the new salary cap are almost preventing teams from adding that maximum-salaried third star to create a super team. The days of the Celtics compiling Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, and the Heat signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade are over unless players decide to take a considerable pay cut.
“I think from a league standpoint we love super teams as long as they’re formed in a way that seem competitively fair across the league,” Silver said. “Smart drafting, smart trades, etc., as opposed to one team has the ability to spend an enormous amount more than another team does.”
The Suns, with the addition of Bradley Beal to join Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, are the closest compilation to a super team today. Booker is a homegrown product while Durant was acquired last season from the Nets. The Suns essentially gutted their bench and draft picks to squeeze Beal into their salary cap.
“In terms of what any team is doing this season, as you know, there’s a transition in terms of the new rules,” Silver said. “I’m all in on anything that is appropriate under the current rules, and [Phoenix] certainly is. So, to the extent that a team sees an opportunity before the full transition into the so-called second apron and they see opportunity to do things and are willing to pay the appropriate tax, that is perfectly appropriate. Having said that, like all the things we do in the league office, we continue to learn and work with our players and create better systems.”
Will US learn from
World Cup failure?
It seemed like a good idea when USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill put together a young, hungry team for the FIBA World Cup, led by a brilliant coaching staff with Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue, and Mark Few.
Team USA went undefeated in its exhibition games and looked good enough to breeze through the tournament until it was exposed by Lithuania in the qualifying round.
Missing from Team USA were legitimate rebounders and knockdown shooters. Kerr never really trusted Brandon Ingram, and the former All-Star from the Pelicans barely played when it counted. Jalen Brunson is a stellar shooting guard, but he was switched to point guard and struggled with decision-making.
Team USA placed undue pressure on reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. He couldn’t stay out of foul trouble and stayed mostly on the perimeter, which hindered his ability to rebound.
What Team USA found out is that FIBA ball is not NBA ball. Germany’s Daniel Theis, familiar to Celtics fans as the man who couldn’t avoid foul trouble or consistently knock down a pick-and-pop jumper, played like Dave Cowens in the win over the United States in the semifinals.
Despite having Spoelstra and Lue, the US defense was putrid. The Americans didn’t respect opposing shooters. They started slow, allowing Lithuania to race to a 19-point lead before figuring out defensive assignments.
Hill had the right intentions by compiling a young team, but it lacked FIBA experience and defensive cohesion. The Americans finished fourth despite leading the tournament in scoring, finishing second in field goal shooting, and fourth in 3-point shooting.
Team USA couldn’t prevent second-chance points, couldn’t get key rebounds, and was bullied in the paint.
And Team USA presented its “C” team and expected success against countries such as Serbia and Germany, whose national teams have been playing together since youth ball.
It’s been reported that LeBron James, who will be 39 at the time of next year’s Paris Olympics, has opted for one last national team go-round and is enlisting players such as Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis to join him. Jayson Tatum of the Celtics, who was the second-best player for Team USA two years ago in Japan, enjoyed his Olympic experience and would certainly join the 2024 club.
Kevin Durant, the best player on that Tokyo team, is also interested, although he will be pushing 36. It’s not a long-term solution, but bringing in the NBA’s top players will enhance the US’s chances at a fifth consecutive gold medal.
Hill’s primary issue is attracting America’s best players to non-Olympic events, such as the World Cup, and also negotiating with talents such as Trae Young, Zion Williamson, and Ja Morant, who have felt slighted in the past.
And it wouldn’t hurt Hill to call Joel Embiid, a naturalized citizen, about his interest in playing. Embiid could also play for France or Cameroon, although Cameroon has yet to qualify for the Paris Games.
Instead of choosing players for Paris, USA Basketball should conduct tryouts where interested players could compete for the final five or six roster spots. The most talented players don’t necessarily make the best fit.
There are always players who don’t fit into the FIBA style. Remember Tim Duncan in 2004? He couldn’t avoid foul trouble. James Harden couldn’t break into the rotation in 2012, or Draymond Green in 2016. Hill and Kerr need to combine thoughts on the best fit for the Team USA style, which has to start with defense.
The issue is when teams are thrown together there is little time to develop a style or personality. Anthony Edwards was by far the most talented offensive player on the World Cup team, but he also attempted nearly eight more shots per game than any of his teammates. And he attempted a team-high 45 3-pointers in eight games but made just 11. Jackson collected just 20 rebounds in the tournament. All-Rookie team selection Walker Kessler tied for the Team USA lead with nine blocked shots, but he played just 56 minutes.
Kerr refused to play bigger lineups and chose to go with the undersized Paolo Banchero or the perimeter-focused Bobby Portis in the paint. Portis did not block a shot in 104 minutes.
This new Team USA needs legitimate, rim-protecting big men. It needs consistent outside shooters and a more cohesive half-court offense. The Americans are unbeatable when they can run off misses but are vulnerable in a slowdown game against more physical teams.
Hill learned a valuable lesson. Putting together a bunch of coachable, good guys with no FIBA experience and minimal physicality will ensure defeat against veteran clubs that are no longer intimidated by the American basketball reputation or history.
The Rockets have to determine the future of troubled guard Kevin Porter Jr., who was arrested this past week for domestic violence in an incident with his girlfriend, former WNBA player Kysre Gondrezick. Porter was released on $75,000 bond and is due back in a New York court on Oct. 16. This is Porter’s most serious transgression but not his first. Since being drafted in the first round by the Cavaliers in 2019, Porter has experienced a series of issues with coaches and teammates, and was also charged with improper handling of a firearm and marijuana possession. Those charges were eventually dropped, but Porter gained a reputation as a troubled player with emotional issues. The Rockets signed Porter to a four-year extension, but the deal was mostly nonguaranteed and incentive-laden depending on Porter’s off-court conduct. The Rockets could attempt to void the contract if Porter is convicted, or attempt to trade him, which could be near impossible unless the Rockets threw in draft compensation. Regardless of whether Porter is found guilty, he can expect to receive a considerable suspension, similar to Charlotte’s Miles Bridges. While Porter is an emerging star, his track record and character may ensure that he never plays in the NBA again . . . The Thunder need a city sales tax increase to pass in December for the construction of a new $900 million arena that would keep the club in Oklahoma for at least the next 25 years. The Thunder have played in the Ford Center/Chesapeake Energy Arena/Paycom Center since moving from Seattle in 2008 and the team finished last in the league in attendance per game as it has endured a major rebuild that is nearing completion . . . The Celtics will be patient in filling their final roster spot, as there is expected to be a slew of quality players who won’t make their teams during training camp. A roster to watch is Oklahoma City, which acquired Davis Bertans and Victor Oladipo in the offseason but has players such as Isaiah Joe and Aaron Wiggins competing for spots. The Thunder have been stockpiling younger players for years, drafted Kentucky’s Cason Wallace, and are welcoming back former second overall pick Chet Holmgren, who missed last season with a foot injury. Rosters for opening night need to be finalized by Oct. 23 . . . Celtics president Rich Gotham will be part of a panel on Tuesday along with Bruins president Cam Neely and Red Sox chief marketing officer Adam Grossman titled: “Building Title Town: Boston Sports Leaders on Strategies for Success.” The panel will take place at 11:05 a.m. at WBUR CitySpace, 890 Commonwealth Avenue. It’s part of the Globe Summit from Tuesday-Thursday. The Globe’s Chris Gasper will conduct a one-on-one interview with NCAA president and former Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. Former Patriot Devin McCourty and Red Sox manager Alex Cora will also participate in panels. Interested? RSVP at https://globesummit2023.splashthat.com/.