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

For the past several years, there has been uncertainty regarding the NBA’s understanding of the damage caused by load management. Teams and players were following scientific recommendations, dismissing any complaints from fans as outdated. However, it seems that the league has finally recognized the impact on fans and television partners. Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged that the league had gone too far with load management and that it needed to move away from resting healthy players for non-medical reasons.

Silver’s stance reflects the frustrations of fans who have long been critical of the practice. Many fans have purchased tickets only to discover that star players were sitting out for rest purposes. Television partners, such as ESPN and TNT, have also faced issues when players sat out games they paid billions to broadcast.

Previously, Silver defended load management, citing medical data. He claimed that record-breaking ticket sales and season-ticket renewals indicated that fans were not upset with the product being presented. However, in a recent statement, Silver acknowledged the issue and its impact on fans.

There is a changing landscape in the NBA due to challenges faced by networks. The league had been banking on the assumption that the salary cap would continue to rise dramatically, but recent events have shown some uncertainty in this regard. The NBA’s current television contract is set to expire, and there is increasing volatility in how games are broadcast due to the shift towards streaming and challenges faced by networks.

Recognizing the need for change, the NBA has implemented a new rest policy. The policy ensures star players are available for national television and In-Season Tournament games, with a preference for resting players during home games. The league has also included a clause in the new collective bargaining agreement, requiring players to play a minimum of 65 games to qualify for MVP and All-NBA honors. These steps aim to incentivize players to appear in more games.

Furthermore, the NBA is introducing an In-Season Tournament to inject excitement into the regular season. These efforts highlight the league’s recognition that changes are necessary to ensure the product meets fans’ expectations.

The league understands the importance of player rest, particularly for playoffs, but wants to avoid situations where multiple star players are resting during the same game. The NBA has embraced sports science and expanded their medical and athletic training staff to find innovative ways to keep players on the court.

Despite the challenges faced by players, with the demanding schedule and prior commitments in their careers, the NBA aims to strike a balance between player rest and providing an exciting product for fans and television partners.