NBA’s rest rules are missing the point


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I’m back from Japan with no jet lag! Big thanks to Marcus Thompson II for keeping this going.

Gimme Sumo Style

The Potemkin Participation Policy

Last week, I was sitting in a VIP seat in the Ryōgoku Kokugikan National Sumo Arena in Tokyo, completely awed by the spectacle. It was Day 5 of a two-week national tournament. Shady internet dealings helped me procure this VIP ticket, all for me to see large athletes slap and push each other around.

I was unprepared for how much I’d enjoy the ceremony’s passion. A 10.5-hour day in the arena wasn’t enough by the end. Seeing the impact of these behemoths slamming into each other — in the most refined of all Neanderthal-esque displays of brute strength and athleticism — ignited an ardor I didn’t know I had. It was also spectacular to see a raucous sumo-loving crowd live and die with each of the biggest battles’ results. That passion was born from scarcity. These tournaments happen only six times in a calendar year.

Economist Thomas Sowell once said, “There is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it.”

The NBA has lost the plot in its flawed Potemkin Village-esque attempt at implementing the Player Participation Policy announced last week. The league seeks to curb teams resting healthy stars on paying customers’ behalf, namely for nationally televised games.

As Tom Haberstroh perfectly stated, teams can get around this “policy.” There are plenty of loopholes, such as saying a veteran star is battling an injury and needs rest. The new policy’s design is the league’s good faith effort to show current and prospective broadcasting rights partners why they should spend even more billions for NBA matchups.

“Don’t worry about the stars missing games! We’ve [legally] addressed that!”

Practically, though, it’s tough to predict how much load management will be curbed. How seriously will the league take this policy in a year? Once the new broadcasting deals have been finalized, will this even be enforced? Is it just the new flop warning?

Agent and league expert Nate Jones recently mentioned on Twitter (I’m not calling it “X”) that players hate the imposed rest by teams, as organizations almost overemphasize protecting their nine-figure investments. But Mark Cuban responded to Nate’s point, which I found to be the crux of the issue:

“The league has optimized the schedule to minimize the number of back to backs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it also reduced or eliminated the number of three-days-or-longer breaks a team had. Which was great for recovery for heavy-minute players. It’s impossible to get both.”

It is impossible to get both … in an 82-game season. Haberstroh has often called for a 58-game slate (each team plays twice) to create scarcity that drives year-round interest. It’s how you theoretically drive up ratings and try to mimic football’s hold on its fans.

Fifty-eight games is too extreme a cut, but are you down for about 70 games? That would solve many issues — sans owners giving up money, of course. But money can be made up through patience, scarcity driving up product value, and ratings-driven broadcasting negotiations down the road. Ask any head coach about an NBA owner’s patience, though.

Instead, the league sticks to 82 games despite stars not doing that anymore. Policy or not, teams will keep doing what’s best for players. The league wants more ratings fervor, which doesn’t happen without scarcity. It will continue wrestling with this issue for the foreseeable future.

Let’s tag in Shams for some other NBA news!

The Latest From Shams

Warriors seek frontcourt presence

Last week, Warriors reporter Anthony Slater and I reported that Dwight Howard will meet with the Warriors, according to league sources.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Warriors have explored signing a veteran reserve big man, and Howard will soon visit with Golden State team officials.
  • Entering his 19th NBA season, Howard expressed to interested teams this offseason that he is in shape and ready to contribute.
  • The 37-year-old last played in the NBA during the 2021-22 season with the Lakers, averaging 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He spent last season playing in Taiwan.

The Warriors need size, which Howard can provide along with championship experience. The likelihood is the Warriors want to see about the locker room fit just as much as the on-court fit, so this week’s meeting will go a long way to see if it’s a match.

Back to you, Zach!

A Sorta Golden Reunion?

CP3-Dwight Howard … 11 years in the making

In a Western Conference with the reigning champion Denver Nuggets and the problem Nikola Jokić presents, it makes sense to seek defensive-minded role players for the interior.

Last season in the Taiwanese Basketball League, Howard averaged 23.2 points, 16.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists but battled knee injuries, though he won’t have similar workload concerns as a backup.

If the Warriors sign Howard, it would finally unite him with Chris Paul, which initially seemed possible during their respective primes in the early 2010s. You might remember David Stern vetoed a trade to send CP3 to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to New Orleans.

CP3 was a Lakers player for about two hours in 2011 before NBA owners reportedly pressured Stern into vetoing the trade as the controlling ownership group of the Hornets. The league purchased the team from George Shinn, who couldn’t afford to run it. So, owners had the legal power to veto trades involving the Hornets.

It was a big feces storm on Twitter, but back before Twitter became the cesspool it is today. The plan was for the Lakers to put Paul alongside Kobe Bryant and get Howard as he exited Orlando in 2012. Using Andrew Bynum to entice a deal for Howard might have worked, and the Lakers seemed to always get their guys back then.

Instead, the NBA — just two weeks after ending the 2011 lockout — decided the trade couldn’t happen. Now? The Warriors might get a second-unit version of CP3-Howard at a combined age of 75 years old.

Luka’s New Floater

Is he becoming an evil mastermind?

Last weekend, Luka Dončić hosted a unique event to debut his latest signature shoe, which was designed to celebrate Slovenia’s Lake Bled. A 3-on-3 tournament was played on a floating court on Lake Bled in Slovenia to help unveil the sneaker. Look at this court.

A couple of notes:

  • Much like when North Carolina and Michigan State played on the USS Carl Vinson, my only thought is about what happens if the ball caroms off into the water.
  • There’s a decent chance the lack of room and spacing could lead to a player flipping over that barrier and into the lake. I’m not a scientist, though.
  • I’m with Twitter user Dan Yang that this is some (bleep) Bowser would concoct.
  • Players should’ve watched “The Menu” before agreeing to this.

Bounce Passes

Load management has frustrated NBA, fans and TV partners, but will new rules help?

Bucks’ big change, Cavs’ chances: Previewing the Central Division

NBA Jam has gone strong for 30 years. No combo was better than Shawn Kemp-Gary Payton.

NBA players have influenced making mental health an easier, open discussion.

Will Guillory makes Bam Adebayo’s case for aiding Team USA’s 2024 gold medal prospects.

The men’s team USA squad remains No. 1 in FIBA despite a poor World Cup showing.

Ausar Thompson should start for the Pistons from Day 1.

Is Cole Swider the next gem Miami can mold into a rotation player?

Keith Smith has the NBA’s best offseason deals.

Screen Game Homework

Nearly a month ago, we reviewed “Semi-Pro” from 2008. This week, we return to high school with “Coach Carter” from 2005. It stars Samuel L. Jackson, Rick Gonzalez, Rob Brown and Channing Tatum.

The movie is currently a streaming rental if you want to do some homework ahead of Friday’s review. We’ll figure out if “Delilah” was the best play in basketball movie history. Buckle up.

(Top photo of Paul Goerge, Kawhi Leonard: Adam Pantozzi / Getty Images)

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