Former Detroit Pistons guard Joe Dumars, now a top NBA official, said Wednesday the practice of resting players for games throughout the 82-game regular season to prevent injury—known as load management—is no longer supported by scientific data.
The Athletic reports Dumars added that NBA players needed to “reestablish” a culture of players attempting to play in most of the games during a season.
“Before, it was a given conclusion that the data showed that you had to rest players a certain amount, and that justified them sitting out,” said Dumars. “We’ve gotten more data, and it just doesn’t show that resting, sitting guys out correlates with lack of injuries, or fatigue, or anything like that. What it does show is maybe guys aren’t as efficient on the second night of a back-to-back.”
Dumars reiterated his stance that “every player” should want to play 82 games.
“Obviously everybody’s not going to play 82 games, but everyone should want to play 82 games. And that’s the culture that we are trying to reestablish right now,” he said.
According to The Athletic, load management was used by Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard during the 2018-2019 season to manage a leg injury that cost him all but nine games the previous season. Leonard missed 22 games in 2018-19 and did not play in any back-to-back games. However, he led the Raptors to their first and only NBA championship and was named Finals MVP.
In the years since, load management spread throughout the league with numerous stars being held out of games, even though they were not injured. The absences largely occurred on Thursday and Friday nights during national broadcasts on TNT and ESPN.
Last season, just 12 of the NBA’s top 50 scorers played in at least 70 games, and while not all of the absences were due to load management, the practice has upset many, including the league’s TV partners. The NBA’s current nine-year, $24 billion national TV deal with ESPN and Turner is set to expire after the 2024-25 season.
Last month the NBA and the NBA Players Association established a player participation policy that will go into effect beginning this season.
Under the policy, no more than one star player can be unavailable for more than one game unless both players are determined to be injured. Teams must ensure that star players are available for nationally televised and in-season tournament games; Teams must also maintain a balance for the number of one-game absences by a star player between road and home games, with a preference for the player to miss home games. Star players who are out due to load management must be present and on the bench.
A star player is defined as a player who has been named to an All-Star team or All-NBA team within the last three years. The NBA has exempted any player who has more than 34,000 career minutes in the NBA or has played a combined 1,000 career regular season and playoff games from the rules.
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