It’s the NBA’s biggest challenge, especially as they try to negotiate a massive new television deal:
It’s an entertainment business and a star-driven league but those stars can often miss a chunk of regular season games — especially for national television broadcasts. In a league driven by rest and recovery to keep those players healthy for the postseason, the regular season gets devalued.
To counter that, the league may pass a new rule and come down hard with fines on teams that sit healthy multiple star players for nationally televised games, according to several reports. The NBA’s Competition Committee will vote this week on whether to increase fines on teams that sit stars for nationally televised games, with a star being defined as an All-Star or All-NBA player from the previous three seasons, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The fines could eventually reach seven figures, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
This, combined with the NBA’s new rule that players have to play in 65 games to qualify for postseason awards such as MVP or an All-NBA team, shows a league trying to crack down on the idea of players sitting out big games.
It’s a good PR front by the league that will have little impact on who sits out games — it’s difficult to enforce.
The new rule will have an exception for legitimately injured players — the league will not force someone to play through a sprained knee or broken finger or whatever. However, by Christmas every player in the league can claim a sore back, a tweaked ankle, or some other bump or bruise that gives them a legitimate medical excuse to sit out. Plus, there is always the “non-covid illness” card to fall back on. If a star player wants to sit out a nationally televised game, coming up with a legitimate non-rest reason will be easy enough.
The players and their union also can say to the league, “You want to fine teams, you want 65-game thresholds for awards, but you don’t reduce back-to-backs or cut back enough on travel” and have a legitimate point.
The league gets to look tough — and tell television partners new and old it is doing all it can — which is a win for them. That doesn’t mean much of anything changes on the court.