Has everyone heard and read about all the complaining being done by NBA players regarding their rest, or lack thereof, during the NBA season? Yahoo’s Ben Rohrbach (Check out his Ball Don’t Lie Blog) wrote of Stan van Gundy’s gripes with the amount of back-to-backs his team has to play as compared to other teams. And you know what? He’s partially right.
Stan speaks to back-to-backs and how he has no choice as a coach but to play them. Taken from an article Rohrbach cited, “It’s something the league needs to address, but I’ve got no control over it,” Stan Van Gundy said last week. “As a coach, you play ’em, but that’s a major schedule imbalance.” Van Gundy went into the details of the advantages some teams have over others who play more back-to-backs and 4 games in 5 nights. When you take into account that they sometimes also have to play a team with a day’s rest, well, you can see the point he is trying to make regarding scheduling and how it negatively affects the performance of his team.
I am not Stan Van Gundy – coach and president of his team – and so I look at this through a different prism. I am a fan, not so much of a particular player or group of players, but of the game. Do I want to see the superstars out there? Absolutely. More importantly, basketball and any other pro sport is a form of entertainment. This is not the Olympics we are talking about, where “pure” athletes compete in what is the essence of competition and sportsmanship. Pro athletes make millions (many of them, anyway) for playing and for their respective endorsements. My complaint is not about the players being tired and not able to play or make the playoffs, because I don’t care what team makes the playoffs. As long as the brand of basketball I see is entertaining I don’t care how minutes are managed.
Because I enjoy watching the sport for it’s entertainment value, Stan Van Gundy does make a valid point. The product would benefit from a better organized schedule. Per Ball Don’t Lie, Lionel Hollins believes that managing (read as minimizing) minutes won’t extend a player’s career. I agree with that particular comment. People just get too wrapped around the axle with those comments and want to look for deeper meaning and criticize him because of his lack of rings. Look at Lionel’s teams and you will notice that he rests them; managing minutes is smart, strategic thinking for those teams that are going to make the playoffs so as to have fresher legs. Coach Hollins was referring to managing minutes and career longevity. He was not alluding to the difference fresh players make during the playoffs. Let’s not get the two points confused. If you want to see the result of overplaying, then look no further than the Chicago Bulls. By the time the postseason starts they are already burnt-out instead of being in a position to peak.
OK, so I am a fan of one particular team, but not in the traditional way that you would describe a fan. Do I get upset when the HEAT lose? Of course. I also get upset when a team that should win the game gives it away, even if I have no rooting interest in them.
Since sports are just another entertainment medium, I want to spend my money on quality products. Isn’t that why we pay to go watch movies, plays, concerts, and the like? So as not to be disappointed by a coach choosing to sit a player for a game which I purchased a ticket for, I opted instead to invest in a 55″ flat screen HDTV where I can enjoy any game I’d like. This way, minutes played – or players sitting out – won’t affect me or cost me an expensive ticket; I can just flip the channel.
I don’t feel bad for athletes that are too tired at the end of the season. Some of this over training is due, in part, to their own off-season workout programs. Many choose to get bigger, faster, and more explosive. That is fine, but why not work on improving your skills? I know that modern science dictates that there are many ways that players can stay healthier during the off-season by strength training. You don’t have to get bigger year after year (like Lebron has continued to do), but just stay fit. Tim Duncan is a perfect example. His game was never one that was predicated on explosiveness, but instead he polished his basketball skills (along with Pop’s managing his minutes) to prolong his career. As a pro player you already face an 82 game season plus playoff basketball for some. Why add more stress to your body? In the end, I think it is that mindset of extensive off-season conditioning that has contributed to players breaking down just as much as the amount of minutes played. There needs to be a middle ground between what athletes do now and what players of other eras did – or didn’t do. The body needs rest in order to heal and without that period of rest players are likely to start breaking down earlier than they would like.