Recently the NBA approved a new “Player Participation Policy.” This was to ensure that multiple “star” players weren’t being sat out due to “load management.” A player is deemed a “star” player by the NBA if they have been named to an All-NBA team or an All-Star team in the past three seasons. This is to promote more players to play the full 82-game season. Under the NBA’s new regulations, there are 49 current players that fall under the “star” category. Teams that violate this new policy will be fined $100,000 for their first offense, $250,000 for their second, and $1 million for any violation that continues. This is an issue that the NBA had been dealing with for years as many players were being sat out for various non-health related reasons.
I think it’s an unfortunate solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist. Scientific data shows how much better players perform when they take advantage of load management schedules. At the same time, this leads to fans not getting to see their favorite players play every single game that they possibly could. The easiest solution: shortening the season, even just by 10-12 games, to eliminate having to schedule back-to-back games, and giving players more natural rest days. But since the NBA’s profit margin relies so heavily on those extra 10-12 games, this was the best they could come up with: a convoluted addendum essentially telling players “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”.
This new rule could also make teams lie about their star’s health to get them the rest they need. The Boston Celtics could say that both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have an ankle injury for example, and make up excuses just so their star players can get the rest they need without taking on the hefty fine. There are plenty of holes in this rule that could be outed in certain situations throughout the year. On top of this rule, the NBA also added a minimum that requires players to play at least 65 games to be eligible for individual awards (MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.) and for All-NBA honors. The NBA is beginning to crack down on the players for taking what they consider “unnecessary rest,” when the players are just trying to extend their careers. Instead of playing an extra few games a year, they are simply trying to add a few years to their NBA tenure by listening to their bodies.
With this new rule, the NBA is trying to keep their stars on the court as much as possible. They’re trying to appeal more to the fans, as they are now almost always guaranteed to see their favorite player in person. This provides a much more enjoyable experience to the fans, but not to the players. In a grueling 82 game season with multiple road games per week, the injury rate is expected to rise again across the league. Teams with multiple stars may start to fake or lie about future injuries in order to rest their best players. This can lead to investigation upon investigation into teams with multiple stars, and the fines could start to add up. With a $1 million fine on the third violation, and an extra million on top of that for every violation after, teams could be paying the league way more than initially expected.An easier solution to this problem would be to shorten the season by a couple of games. This would allow players to have more time to rest and train instead of being on the court constantly.
For years, many NBA teams have been sitting out their own star players for various reasons. A common reason being to ensure their star player(s) don’t get injured. As a result, fans are put at a disadvantage as many pay great amounts of money to see the star players perform. This game loses its true value without those star players and does not give the fans a full experience. Teams are trying to cut corners in order to preserve the health of their players. However, the NBA has quickly caught onto this problem and this new rule hopes to be the solution. For years, many players have complained about the 82-game NBA schedule as they feel it is very tiresome. Many have suggested returning to the 72-game season that was used after the 2020 bubble season. While this potential solution has gotten lots of traction, it seems that it will take additional time to make a decision on this topic.
With this new rule now in place, it will be interesting to say the least how NBA teams respond to it. The players will have to focus on their health a lot more now depending on how many back-to-backs each “star” has. Who will be the first team to pay the hefty fine? Will a team have so many violations that they have to play the million dollar fine? The roller coaster we call the NBA regular season just got a little bumpier, so strap in.