NBA Load Management Debate Back In Forefront With Kawhi Absence
Bucks-Clippers tonight "features one of the game's most anticipated one-on-one matchups" between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, but the Clippers have "chosen to deprive fans of that matchup and will sit Leonard," according to Jason Owens of YAHOO SPORTS. A "once-exciting nationally televised game on ESPN has fizzled before tipoff." This will "mark the second time this season a healthy Leonard will sit through eight games," following his absence against the Jazz on Oct. 30 in another nationally televised game on ESPN. Sitting Leonard for one of the two matchups this year against the Bucks is an "affront to fans who were rightfully looking forward to the game" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/6). In L.A., Andrew Greif notes the NBA "prohibits teams from resting otherwise healthy players for high-profile, nationally televised games at the risk of a fine starting at $100,000." The Clippers "haven't been fined and are in compliance with league policy because the listed reason for the absence is related to an 'injury/illness,' and not rest." A league spokesperson said that the team "received approval for Leonard's absence ahead of time" (L.A. TIMES, 11/5).
SIGN OF THE TIMES: ESPN's Doris Burke said she believes the NBA "has a long-term problem" regarding load management. Burke: "Kawhi not playing, to me, is ridiculous at this point." She also believes the league "is and should be concerned that their best players are not playing on nights when they're on national television" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 11/6). FS1's Nick Wright said Leonard "has a responsibility not just" to the Clippers, but also to the "league, to its fans and dare I say to its television partners" ("First Things First," FS1, 11/6). Fox Sports Radio's Chris Broussard said ESPN "is upset" with the Clippers' decision to rest Leonard and "they should be." Broussard: "You just can't have your top players saying the regular season doesn't matter like this." He added if players cannot physically play 82 games, then NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should consider "dropping the season to 65 games" ("The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard & Rob Parker," Fox Sports Radio, 11/1). ESPN's Mike Greenberg: "I don't care if they're televised or not. There are 20,000 people who bought tickets to go to that game and deserve to see the best players in the league play. That's why you're buying these tickets and if these players can't play 82 games, then 82 games is too many to have on the schedule" ("Get Up," ESPN, 11/6). Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said of players resting due to load management, "I don't think it's ideal, by any means." But he added that is "why you see the schedule evolving the way it does." Koonin: "There are very few back-to-backs, there are very few four and five nights because there is some validity into what the human body today can take." Koonin said there is now a "different level of awareness and heightened sensitivity about health" ("Dukes & Bell," WZGC-FM, 11/1).