LeBron James invoked Gregg Popovich’s tactics when discussing different ideas for resting players.
Hours after NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo that described resting players as “an extremely significant issue for our league,” four-time Most Valuable Player LeBron James said the only reason resting players has become an issue is because he’s the one missing games.
“I don’t understand why it’s becoming a problem now, because I started to sit out a couple games? It is the case. It’s absolutely the case,” he said, according to Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon. “Listen, man. [Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich] has been doing this 10 years, 12 years, 15 years and everyone’s like, ‘You know what? That’s the smartest thing Pop has ever done.’ Give his guys a couple games off and here they go, five championships.
“It’s the smartest thing. But some of our coaches in our league don’t have the stature that Pop has, and our head coach doesn’t have it, so he gets killed for it.”
— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) March 21, 2017
The Cleveland Cavaliers drew widespread criticism for resting James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love in their nationally televised March 18 game against the Los Angeles Clippers. They lost that game, 108-78, and scored just 16 points in the first quarter.
But the Cavaliers had also played a grueling stretch of games leading up to their matchup against the Clippers, which was the first game of a road back-to-back. It would have been the big three’s second set of back-to-back games on the road in a nine-day span. There is science that shows injuries are 3.5 times more likely to occur during those games.
In the memo sent to teams, Silver urged owners to be more involved in the decision-making process as it pertained to resting starters. James seemed bewildered by the idea.
“There’s owners that’s not even around the teams,” James said. “Owners are just owner of the team because they own the team. It’s whatever. What does that make any sense of?”
Cleveland’s resting of its All-Stars came one week after the Golden State Warriors rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in a nationally televised game against the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors rested their starters on a tail end of a stretch that included seven of eight games on the road and two cross-country flights.
The Spurs, who lacked Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tony Parker due to injury, won by 22.