According to a report by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA is trying to make sure teams’ star players play more games in 2023-24 than they have in recent years.
What started as Load Management (i.e. resting a player without an ailment) and has recently morphed into an unwieldy amount of long-lingering soft tissue injuries and ‘<x> injury management’ games, the NBA’s biggest stars are appearing in fewer games every season.
To correct this problem, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a minimum-games-played threshold (65) to qualify for end of season All-NBA awards that often have immediate financial rewards tied to them and always have a lifetime of pride at stake.
Check the trend: 15 of the 45 All-NBA selections in the last three years have failed to appear in enough games to qualify under the new rules:
- 5 of 15 All-NBA players played fewer than 65 games in the 2022-23 season
- 4 of 15 All-NBA players played fewer than 65 games in the 2021-22 season
- 6 of 15 All-NBA players played fewer than 57 games in the 2020-21 season (prorated to 57 based on the 72-game regular season)
That’s one-third of All-NBA selections over the past three years that would not have qualified had the rules been in place.
And now, apparently the Board of Governors will be putting in a rule to reduce mass ‘rest’ nights. The rule will require that no more than one star player (defined as an All-Star or All-NBA in any of the last three years) can miss a single game due to ‘rest’.
NBA Board of Governors is expected to vote this week on new policy that a team is unable to rest two star players in the same game, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Many league discussions over past 1-2 years have centered around stars playing more, curbing load management.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 11, 2023
For example, the Warriors ‘rested’ their whole starting lineup more than once this past season in a road game at the end of a grueling stretch of schedule. Under this new rule, they would not be allowed to sit out more than one of Stephen Curry (All-Star as recently as 2023), Andrew Wiggins (2022) and Draymond Green (2022) next season due to ‘rest’.
Teams that violate this new rule will be fined, starting this coming season.
The same issue will face the Phoenix Suns, though they historically have not strategically rested an entire lineup at a time. Yet with Kevin Durant (most recently in 2023), Devin Booker (2022), and Bradley Beal (2021) all recent All-Stars, the Suns will only be permitted to ‘rest’ one of them at a time.
Of course, the way around this is using injury as an excuse. Depending on how the rule is written, ‘sore ankle’ and ‘back tightness’ are not the same as ‘rest’ or ‘injury management’.
While limits on rest management will be an issue throughout the league, the new 65-game rule might be the most worrisome for Suns players.
Using the 65-game-minimum rule:
- Kevin Durant hasn’t played 65 games since 2019, so he would not have qualified for his All-NBA nod in 2021-22
- Bradley Beal also hasn’t played 65 games since 2019, so he would not have qualified for his All-NBA nod in 2020-21
- Devin Booker would not have been affected. He played 68 games in his All-NBA year 2021-22.
Not sure how much these new rules will help, but you can bet the league is trying everything they can to increase the value of their brand ahead of negotiating new TV deals next summer. The more stars are on the screen every night, the better.