The NBA called Cavaliers GM David Griffin to "complain" about the team sitting F LeBron James, G Kyrie Irving and C Kevin Love "out of a nationally televised game" against the Clippers on Saturday night, according to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. With the Warriors' benching of their star players last weekend, this marks the "second consecutive week in which a marquee team rested its stars in the NBA's Saturday prime-time slot on ABC" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/19). The PLAIN DEALER's Vardon noted the team's top four scorers "were unavailable -- precisely what ABC had in mind for its weekly Saturday night 'marquee' NBA game." The Cavaliers scored their "fewest points this season" in the 108-78 loss, and a "loud chant of 'We want LeBron' broke out at Staples Center during the first half" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/19). Griffin said, "We're very sensitive to the fact that from a fan's standpoint it hurts. But it's the right thing for us." ABC's Lisa Salters asked Griffin about "protecting the fans who paid the big money" for tickets to see James, Irving and Love in L.A. Griffin responded, "It cuts both ways. We're protecting the Cavaliers fans that are watching us and have expectations that we're going to compete at the highest level" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/19). Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said that he "did not have any conversation with the NBA officials in the aftermath" of the game. In Akron, Marla Ridenour noted Lue was "not happy with the league's reaction." Lue: "It's stupid" (OHIO.com, 3/19).
TUNING OUT: In Cleveland, Joe Noga noted ABC's Jeff Van Gundy "complained throughout the broadcast" about the benching of star players, and he "logged 23 different remarks" regarding the topic. Van Gundy during the telecast said, "Beyond the fans, just business-wise. Think about it. ABC and the Disney Corporation paid $1.2 billion for this 'partnership.' A partnership is about equality. There's no equality in this. We just get what they serve up." Van Gundy added, "This game stinks" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/19). ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin wrote what was "supposed to be a marquee matchup for the league ... quickly devolved into an embarrassment." McMenamin: "Why would anyone turn on their TV to watch a lesser product?" People "can't blame fans for wanting to see the league put an end to games like the one that was played Saturday" (ESPN.com, 3/19). ABC's Michael Wilbon said of the Cavaliers resting their Big 3 against the Clippers, “We should have come out here with pillows and blankets and just put our heads down for a nap. ... We're trying to examine how the league got to the point where it's so acceptable to do this. It was not acceptable for 70 years.” The net's Jalen Rose said, “It became acceptable when we only judged players by the final result and how many championships they won. We diminished the entire regular season. ... This is cheating the fans. It's cheating the game." ABC’s Sage Steele said: “At the end of the day if this continues to happen, especially at this level on these Saturday nights which was a lot of money involved, the fans are going to begin to be a little bit louder. ... This is not okay” (“NBA Countdown,” ABC, 3/18).
WHAT IS HAPPENING? In California, Jeff Miller wrote under the header, "Benched LeBron An NBA Embarrassment." This trend is a "maddening fact of the modern-day NBA, this practice of holding out top players in the interest of resting them instead." But that "doesn't make the situation any more right, particularly to all those fans who showed up Saturday wearing LeBron jerseys, knowing this weekend marks his only L.A. appearance all season" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/19). NBATV’s Vince Cellini: “Sitting these guys out after the Spurs and Golden State, especially up against the college tournament ... it is frustrating. Again, this is the climate of the NBA” (“NBA GameTime,” NBATV, 3/18). Van Gundy said, “It’s really unfortunate what’s happening, the whole trend about the value we place on the regular season. I think we are forgetting that it’s a business, that people have to show up for work.” Van Gundy continued, “There's never been a more pro-team, pro-player commissioner in any sport any better than Adam Silver. He has gone and bent over backwards to try to help them with whatever their issues are. I think he's really concerned with it, I think he really tries to help them, but they have to help him in this situation. It can't just be a one-way relationship and right now. ... I don't think the teams or the players are giving him the cooperation that his leadership warrants.” Van Gundy added, “There's like 20 guys ... that people pay tickets to see. And to me, those guys have an added responsibility and bear a greater burden to play when healthy” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 3/20).
CALL A DOCTOR: ABC's Mark Jackson said, "This is an absolute joke. Who is protecting the fans? Who is protecting the game of basketball? Something's got to be done." Clipper coach Doc Rivers said that the NBA "should adjust its procedures to ensure that teams can play at full strength during the Saturday night games." Rivers: "I really believe we have to protect the national games by scheduling. I think we can. It's going to be hard but I think we can do this." Rivers proposed that the NBA "provide buffer days around the Saturday night match-ups, ensuring that neither team plays the game as part of a back-to-back." Rivers said, "We need to treat these ABC games like afternoon games where you don’t play the night before, and then you don’t play the next night after. It sounds so easy, but it’s not." SI.com's Ben Golliver wrote tweaking rest days or incorporating a "greater number of teams on Saturday Primetime could help alleviate these occasional unnecessary eyesores" (SI.com, 3/19). Wizards G John Wall said, "That's the difference about our league now. It's kind of gotten a little softer. Guys sit out and rest." Wall added, "I'm not the type of guy who wants to sit down and rest. I think you owe it to the fans. They paid money to come see us play. That's how a professional goes out there and competes. If nothing is hurt, you can play, go play" (USATODAY.com, 3/17). Rivers said, "I hate it for the fans. I really do. I hate it. I do it. We all do it. It’s bad, and I did it the other night in Denver. There were people with [F Blake Griffin and C DeAndre Jordan] jerseys all over the place. And especially for national games, (it’s not good)” (L.A. TIMES, 3/19).
MAKE UP DATE: The BEACON JOURNAL's Ridenour notes James, Irving and Love treated Lakers fans at Staples Center on Sunday to a "spectacular display of basketball." If disgruntled L.A. fans had tickets for the Cavs' back-to-back, those three "didn't disappoint." In attendance for the game was Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert, LRMR Management Founder Maverick Carter, James' agent and Klutch Sports Group Founder Rich Paul and actors Denzel Washington and Jack Nicholson (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/20). Lue, in response to the suggestion that ABC might abandon Saturday night games because of players being rested, said, "I know. Sorry ABC. This wasn't intentional. It's serious. No need to have setbacks to play one game on national TV. We're being smart about it" (OHIO.com, 3/18).
NO PROBLEM? NBA.com's Shaun Powell wrote the "chances are fairly good that nobody is screaming at Phoenix for resting a healthy Eric Bledsoe, who will continue to sit for the bottom-feeding (and some might say tanking) Suns." League powerhouses "bought themselves the 'right' to sit players" (NBA.com, 3/19). James said, "I don't think the NBA can do anything about it. At the end of the day, it sucks at times where certain guys have to rest, but certain guys need rest. And it's a long, strenuous season and the NBA does a great job of putting the schedule together as best they can." James added, "I can't stress enough how important rest is." James was asked if he had an opinion on players being obligated to "play in marquee television games considering" the nine-year, $24B TV rights extension. James said, "I've been part of six straight Finals and every single season and every single Finals has been bigger and bigger and bigger and better and better and more people have tuned in. So I don't see there's a problem going on with our league" (ESPN.com, 3/20).
TWITTER REAX: The Ringer's Bill Simmons tweeted Van Gundy "makes a good point -- why not rest your 3 best guys vs the Tanking Lakers?" Jazz radio broadcaster David Locke: "Close friends from Montana schedule Spring Break trip to LA so son can see Cavaliers. Get no LeBron, Kyrie, Love. NBA has to solve this." SiriusXM Radio's Justin Termine: "If Lebron needs to rest so badly, take him out of the end of blowouts instead of keeping him out there to chase triple-doubles." MTV News' Ezekiel Kweku: "It's still funny to me that LeBron said 'I'll rest when I retire' 2 days before resting."