NEW YORK – Hello, NBA post-season. Goodbye, "load management".
It's hope, anyway. This strange term, invented to cover otherwise healthy players sitting at a match here, a match there – or maybe a dozen or more of the 82 members of their team who are playing – is strictly for the regular season.
The idea that a high-level player is selected for an evening at the heart of a playoff series at the best of seven series seems so unrealistic and unfair, even in 2019, that it would be highly unlikely.
This has been a nagging question for six months, however, diluting the mix of competition and entertainment of some games. And when the days of the season have fallen, the questions of who has played and who has rested have touched more than the teams of this field, the people of this building and the public have listened to this particular game.
Now, other teams had a direct interest. By observing the dashboard, they could see that a rival for a place in the playoffs or a seeding position had taken a break, his opponent sitting down that night. Did not seem very porter.
"I'm never really comfortable where things are," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday during extensive discussions on the subject after the Spring Board of Governors meeting.
"I think last week in particular, you can imagine that there is quite a bit of anxiety at the league office."
Silver acknowledged that the teams – both those seeking solutions to rest key players with no playoff implications and those who were upset when these situations arose – had called our Attorney General Rick Buchanan or calling Mark Tatum or calling me.
Silver said, "We can not always give them a clear answer. We always have an eye on the fact that we know it's the playoffs. So we do not want to force a team to do stupid things that could cause health problems during the most important part of the season. "
The challenge of finding the right solution for everyone, however, is discouraging. Enough for Silver to engage in a discussion of what might be considered radical ideas for changing or shortening the 82 game season in the future.
For example, shorter seasons. Or shorter games. Or a kind of tournaments in season on the model of international football seasons.
"These are all things we look at," said the Commissioner. "These are not the types of format changes you will make without a lot of deliberation. "
Silver said at this week's meetings, Byron Spruell, president of the NBA's basketball operations, made a presentation on such format changes. Naturally, any major product redesign would require the cooperation of teams and players, and would likely require time – "five years, six years," said Silver, before implementation.
In recent seasons, the NBA has taken measures to reduce the workload of players, including reducing the number of consecutive hours, bringing the break of the stars to a week and extending the schedule of the league to allow more days between games. And yet, stars such as Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis or LeBron James have been frequent during 2018-19, held at rest, for general pains or to preserve their future value as assets.
"Sometimes it's science, but sometimes art," Silver said. "I think fans might think that if scientific knowledge suggested that 82 games were too many games for these players, you might not have a season of 82 games. I accept it, and that is one thing we will continue to examine. "
The suggestion of a pre-playoff tournament has been raging at NBA headquarters for years. A more recent notion has been a mid-season tournament. Both would likely mean that some teams would rest for a number of days.
Keeping the NBA game popular with fans, especially those who consume viewers or users of other platforms, is a priority close to the health of players. Silver added that the number of viewers changing and the new competition were asking the league to consider new ways to present the game. This could mean the beginning of new traditions.
"The players and we have a common interest in maximizing the number of viewers and maximizing the interests," said the commissioner. "The format we have in place now … I am a traditionalist on one side, but on the other side, he is about 50 years old and presents a season of 82 games, and he is not a fan. there is nothing magical about it. "
Among the topics covered at his press conference, Silver paid tribute to Dwyane Wade of Miami and Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas, both of whom retired after a career in the Hall of Fame.
"Two guys, very different backgrounds, very different playing styles, very different approaches," said Silver, "but incredibly wonderful guys with whom the league office has been working closely for many years and who, I I am certain that they will now find different ways to engage directly in the league as retired players in the NBA. "
There was another goodbye on Tuesday when Lakers legend Magic Johnson suddenly resigned as president of the basketball operations of this team. Like so many others, Silver learned what was happening in real time, when he received a text inviting him to activate Johnson's impromptu press session broadcast live on NBA TV.
The two have been in contact since.
"In the end, I want what's best for Magic," Silver said. "He has been an incredible ambassador for this game. … In some ways, we get it back.
Silver said that it was possible that Johnson remains "detached" from the Lakers, he could frame "the next generation of players". Without fear of violating the rules of falsification, as Johnson did in his comments on Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"So, I do not consider him out of the league in any way," said the commissioner. "In fact, I see it as if it re-engaged otherwise."
* * *
Steve Aschburner has written on the NBA since 1980. You can send him an email here, find his archives here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.