The NBA Board of Governors approved a new policy Wednesday that allows the league to fine teams that sit star players during games.
The new policy, which was recommended by the NBA Competition Committee, will apply to nationally-televised games and in-season tournament games, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Teams can also face punishment for sitting multiple stars during regular-season games.
The policy is also aimed at preventing teams from resting players, or using them in reduced roles, when the “integrity of the game” is at stake.
Teams will reportedly face a $100,000 fine for a first violation. That figure would jump to $250,000 for the second violation and would then increase by $1 million for each subsequent violation, per Wojnarowski.
Teams will only be punished for resting “star players,” which will reportedly be defined as any player who made the All-Star team or was named to the All-Pro team in the past three seasons, per Charania.
In an effort to keep players fresh for the playoffs, NBA teams have engaged in load management for some of the biggest names in the sport. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard are among the players who have received semi-regular days of rest during recent regular seasons. Under the new policy, both the Clippers and Lakers could face fines if they continue to engage in that strategy, though it depends on when those players receive rest and if the team opts to also rest other star players.
The portion of the policy aimed at preventing teams from resting players when the “integrity of the game” is at stake could be a response to the Dallas Mavericks, who sat Kyrie Irving and limited Luka Doncic’s playing time late in the season when the team still had a shot at the playoffs. The Mavericks had a shot at a better draft pick if they lost down the stretch, causing the NBA to investigate the situation to determine the team’s motivation for sitting Irving and barely using Doncic. The Mavericks were fined $750,000 as a result of that investigation.
The league attempted to crack down on load management in 2020, implementing a $100,000 fine for teams that sat healthy players during nationally televised games. Those guidelines, however, left teams with wiggle room to rest players for “unusual circumstances,” which included player age, whether a player was coming off an injury and whether a player took part in back-to-back games.
ESPN obtained a league memo Monday outlining proposed situations for enforcement:
“Teams must manage their roster to ensure that no more than one star player is unavailable for the same game.
“Teams must insure that star players are available for national television and in-season tournament games.
“Teams must maintain a balance between the number of one-game absences for a star player in home games and road games — with a preference for those absences to happen in home games.
“Teams must refrain from any long-term shutdown — or near shutdown — when a star player stops participating in games or plays in a materially reduced role in circumstances affecting the integrity of the game.
“Teams must insure that healthy players resting for a game are present and visible to fans.”
All of those proposed situations for enforcement were reportedly part of the policy that the Board of Governors approved Wednesday.