Latest On NBA’s Load Management Dilemma

The NBA sent a memo to all 30 organizations this week instructing teams not to use the phrase “load management” to describe an injury, as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today details in a series of tweets. According to the NBA’s memo, “load management” is a permissible description of a player’s absence only if he’s missing a game due to rest under the league’s resting policy.

The Hawks, who had been listing Chandler Parsons as out due to “load management” during the first few weeks of the season, adjusted their approach on Tuesday, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter link). Parsons’ new designation was “injury management (bilateral knees).” We can probably expect the Clippers to make a similar change to Kawhi Leonard‘s injury-report description the next time he sits.

While the NBA’s latest request may seem arbitrary or semantic, it reflects what a delicate subject load management has become for the league. It’s one of the “most debated, least understood” issues in basketball today, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and Kevin Arnovitz, who go into detail on the science and the goals behind load management programs.

“It is rare to find a sports scientist or performance specialist who believes that the NBA season doesn’t require some attention to load management to assure that a player has a chance to be at peak performance in the postseason,” Pelton and Arnovitz write. However, the ESPN duo acknowledges that while teams have more data points available to them than ever, interpreting that data “is still an art” rather than a hard science.

As load management continues to be a popular topic of discussion in the basketball world, here are a few more items related to the phenomenon:

  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic surveyed executives, coaches, and players around the NBA in an attempt to determine the best fixes for the load management problem and received a variety of responses. Reducing the amount of games in a season or stretching the season to create fewer back-to-back sets was the most popular answer in Strauss’ survey. One agent also suggested teams should make an effort to rest players during non-national TV games and make their plans clear as soon as they know them.
  • WarnerMedia chairman Jeff Zucker said this week that he’d like to see the NBA be more proactive in addressing “load management” games that coincide with national TV broadcasts. (Twitter links via Ben Fischer of SportsBusiness Journal). I think the league has some influence over teams and i would like them to exert that influence,” Zucker said. TNT falls under the WarnerMedia umbrella, so Zucker obviously has a vested interest in stars suiting up for marquee games.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban came out strongly in favor of load management this week, calling it “the best thing to ever happen to the league,” as Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe tweets. While fans may be frustrated to see star players sitting in regular season games, Cuban argues that it increases the chances of keeping those stars healthy for the most important games in the spring. “You actually get more of your stars [in the playoffs],” Cuban said, per ESPN. “You get shorter rotations of more of the guys playing in the playoffs, which is what you want to see anyway, right?”
  • Lakers star LeBron James believes that young players could probably benefit from “load management” – or at least more favorable scheduling – at the AAU level, as he tells Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “A lot of these [AAU] tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man,” James said. “I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”
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19 thoughts on “Latest On NBA’s Load Management Dilemma

  1. Chucktoad1

    Personally I’d rather see guys like Kawhi perform at the highest level come playoff time and if they have to sit out a few regular season games to get their then by all means they need to do so.

  2. Theone23

    Meh, at the end of the day, the teams are the ones investing millions of dollars into these players. They should have the right to do whatever necessary to keep them healthy, especially when the end goal for teams like the Raptors and clippers are to win a championship. That really is all that matters. If a player sits a few regular season games to be healthier come Playoff time, it only makes sense imo. Long term view over short term gain. Heck, even Memphis rested a couple of teenagers for load management in Brandon Clarke and ja Morant last week. Science has continually shown a strong correlation between over exertion and injuries.

      • xtraflamy

        I agree. I don’t know why ALL the focus is on the playoffs. Every game matters, and is meant to be entertainment. What about all the folks that save up to go to one or two games a year and then they’re playing the 2nd unit? They should make the regular season games free/really cheap if people are going to spent the whole season testing for the playoffs.

  3. Buckman

    Put the whole league on load management and shorten the regular season so that there are no back to backs. Of course, that would mean less revenue so no chance of it happening. It is the paying fans and TV stations paying big bucks that get screwed over. Contracts should be more incentive-based that includes GP or minutes played clauses and be back loaded towards playoff success especially if that what all this load management is about. It doesn’t stop the fans from being screwed but it does provide incentive to play rather sit. If load management has become such an exact science then this should be a logical outcome. Why keep paying players based on outmoded assumptions about regular season playing expectations.

  4. The NBA’s teams are merely responding to the NBA landscape. For decades, the league has marketed its stars, more and more over its teams, and the league has emphasized the playoffs, more and more over the regular season. Even hard core NBA fans can’t tell you who won each of the league’s six divisions last year. Now, last year’s seedings, for the playoffs, that they know. Because that matters.

  5. Dodgethis

    How about we let teams decide who plays and when, since the players are working for the team. The NBA is now worse than the WWE, as at least the WWE admits it’s entertainment, and not a competitive sport league. The NBA still pretending they are a sports league is laughable at best.

    • A pro sports league is different. The individual teams are not the end-all. It’s the league as a whole that’s the thing. Individual teams are not independent and exist on an island by themselves and can manage their players the way they want. This has to be handled as a league.

      That said, I’m not sure what the solution is. Perhaps load management only at home? When I get together with my buddies and decide on games to attend, I want to see the Lakers and the Clippers and the Sixers come into town to see their guys. Load Management on the road is not cool.

  6. harden-westbrook-mvps

    If anyone is in need of load management it’s LeBron James after he has averaged almost 39 minutes per game for his career. Too much.

  7. jorge78

    Such fragile babies! They can’t play half the game and then sit down? They are chauffeured around and stay in five star hotels.
    Their EVERY need is catered to.
    I think it’s time to pay players based on games played. Of course, since the players run the league, nothing will change
    It’s why I don’t watch the
    No Ballers Association
    anymore. They have
    no balls! They won’t miss
    me. They have plenty of
    fools to keep the freak
    show going. Good luck!

    • I understand what you’re saying but have you seen these guys walk after they’re retired?

      Just last night I went to a San Diego State Aztec/ Grand Canyon basketball game and it was painful to watch Dan Majerle hobble up and down the sideline.

  8. implant

    Wayne Gretzky lost in his first appearance in the Cup finals. As he walked past the victorious Islanders looker room he expected to hear hoopin and hollerin. When he heard nothing he poked his head inside and saw the players sitting around with icepacks on. He said he realized that then that it would take more than talent. Dedication and going all out all the time. Todays athletes are in far better shape than their predecessors but are far more soft and cuddled. There is no doubt the less games that are played the fresher the athlete will be. If the players feel they would be better served playing 60 games then change the schedule and take 25% percent less money. Until then they owe it to the fans to go all out all year long, its survival of the fittest

  9. rodster

    The NBA executives are themselves examples of “Load Management”, A s–tload of management.

    • That reminds me of a recent movie…

      “Yes My assistant helps carry part of the load.”

      Is that right, assistant?

      “Yes it is, I often carry his load.”


  10. SheaGoodbye

    There are really only three options here.

    -Reduce the # of games
    -Reduce the # of B2B
    -Set load management dates before the season (like B2Bs), or at least well in advance, so that fans would have an idea.

    Of course, there’s almost a zero percent chance the last bullet happens, since no team would want to incur the loss in revenue even if it would be fair. Plus, to predict that far out who would need rest and when would be difficult.

    In any event, the league needs to do something about this ASAP. It isn’t a good look for them.

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