By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA is still searching for ways to stop teams from resting healthy players.
Shortening the 82-game season won’t be the answer.
Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday that hasn’t been discussed, though he hopes other steps can help with what he said was the most important issue facing the league.
“I’d say because there is no support right now, hard support, for a belief that simply reducing the number of games will reduce the number of injuries,” Silver said. “As best we understand the issue right now, it’s a function of spacing games. It’s not the totality of games.”
The league’s Board of Governors reached a conclusion on another matter, ruling that Charlotte would be eligible to host the 2019 All-Star Game after a compromise deal to replace a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people.
Charlotte will resubmit its application to host the weekend it was scheduled to have in February before the league moved it due to its objection to the law.
“I’m proud of the league’s stance on opposing HB2 and announcing that we were not going to play the All-Star Game under those circumstances. And I’m also proud that we’re going back. I think we can be a force for change,” Silver said.
But the rest issue continues to vex Silver and the league, realizing players need breaks but the fans and TV partners paying billions want to see the stars as much as possible.
“So there’s no more important issue for the league right now,” Silver said. “I mean, it goes to the heart of what we do and to the core of competition, and so it is something that we’re going to be spending a lot more time on.”
For now, there are guidelines but no new rules. The recommendations were that teams avoid resting multiple healthy players for national TV games, and when necessary to rest players, do so during home games.
Silver sent a memo to owners last month , urging them to be more mindful of the rest decisions, after Golden State and Cleveland rested multiple All-Stars during back-to-back Saturday prime-time games on ABC.
But he doesn’t seem ready to punish teams, at least yet, saying he was “trying to find the right line between cajoling and new requirements.”
“What we talked about among our owners was a sense of obligation to the game and what appropriate behavior is,” Silver said. “And so what we concluded is if we could focus on these two issues, namely, to the extent you’re resting, resting at home and avoiding resting multiple starters, especially in marquee games, we could solve a large part of the problem.”
He also hopes a new scheduling format will help. The league will start the 2017-18 season about a week earlier than the usual late-October time, which he hopes could trim about two more back-to-backs per team from the schedule and possibly slash stretches of four games in five nights entirely.
The NBA hoped it had already alleviated that problem this season when back-to-backs were trimmed to an average of 16.3 per team, down from 19.3 per team just two years ago. Also, no team had more than one four-in-five stretch for the first time in league history.
But coaches, armed in some cases with medical data telling them when a night off would be optimal, don’t seem to be resting their best any less.
The Spurs, at the forefront of the resting strategy under coach Gregg Popovich, have already announced they are resting Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol for their game Friday against Dallas on the opener of a back-to-back.
The issue has even turned players against players, with Hall of Famers such as Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman criticizing players of today for taking nights off they say their contemporaries wouldn’t have. Former Knicks star Charles Oakley fired back at Rodman on Twitter in defense of LeBron James resting.
Silver defended the players, noting it’s a team deciding when to sit them. So he’s trying to get them to cooperate in getting the problem under control.
“So as I said, it’s a complex issue. It doesn’t mean we won’t resolve it,” Silver said. “I felt that the spirit in the room of our owners yesterday was the right one, a true sense of partnership, a recognition that we cannot take the game for granted, that this game is bigger than any team, than any one person in the room, and that we should never take our fans for granted.”
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