‘Load management’ exposes NBA’s real problem

‘Load management’ exposes NBA’s real problem

(Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports illustration)

load management” as a problem the NBA must confront.’ data-reactid=”32″>But last week, on Leonard’s second scheduled rest day of 2019-20, the NBA world exploded. Even fans and media members who wished to ignore the topic got sucked in. The sheer volume of the chatter, when combined with its controversial nature, presented “load management” as a problem the NBA must confront.

But is it?

The answer weaves together contradictory incentives and left-field solutions and science and economics. It touches the collective bargaining agreement and many of the league’s stakeholders and even the core principles of sport.

science behind “load management,” in some cases, remains murky. But in general, says Tim Gabbett, a sports performance expert who has consulted with NBA teams, “We know that spikes in load, rapid increases in load, can increase risk” – of both injury and underperformance. Load management is a preventative measure.’ data-reactid=”38″>The list will soon grow, because extreme exertion on back-to-back November nights is not, in all likelihood, a responsible method of building toward an April peak. The science behind “load management,” in some cases, remains murky. But in general, says Tim Gabbett, a sports performance expert who has consulted with NBA teams, “We know that spikes in load, rapid increases in load, can increase risk” – of both injury and underperformance. Load management is a preventative measure.

with more logged mileage than ever before. And NBA games today are faster and more physically taxing than ever before. It is no coincidence, then, that injuries are more prevalent. ‘ data-reactid=”41″>The fundamental issues here are season length and playoff format. The 82-game regular season wears down human bodies – bodies that now enter the league with more logged mileage than ever before. And NBA games today are faster and more physically taxing than ever before. It is no coincidence, then, that injuries are more prevalent. 

reported in June that a committee of top executives discussed it – but that “the appetite among team officials for a major reduction in the number of games was limited.”’ data-reactid=”46″>But would, or could, the NBA ever slim down its regular season? The idea has its supporters within and around the league. ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz reported in June that a committee of top executives discussed it – but that “the appetite among team officials for a major reduction in the number of games was limited.”

There is merit to the idea, but also reasons it is unlikely to materialize. After all, no major professional sports league has ever executed a similar reduction. Because fewer games means fewer tickets sold and fewer TV broadcasts, which means less revenue. There’s no meaningful change that wouldn’t, in the short term, cut into the NBA’s $8 billion annual pie.

But those same players might actually be an obstacle. Per the CBA, the NBA has a contractual obligation to the players to maximize revenue every year. But a reduction in games would mean a reduction in revenue. And because player salaries are a function of the league’s basketball-related income, their future earning potential would take a hit. If, as the argument goes, reducing games means a boost to the long-term bottom line, would current players — who won’t be around in five or 10 years when the benefits kick in — be willing to sacrifice today for the good of tomorrow?

If the answer is no, and if the league can’t concoct alternative revenue streams, then it is without a viable “load management” solution.

Kawhi Leonard has already sat out three of 11 games this season. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)’ data-reactid=”75″>

After missing 22 games last year, Kawhi Leonard has already sat out three of 11 games this season. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

dropped at both local and national levels last season, there is no evidence that load management had anything to do with the declines. The number of stars who have logged DNP-Rests on TNT, ESPN or ABC is nowhere near as high as the furor around the topic would suggest. It’s certainly nowhere near the number of games missed by stars due to injury.’ data-reactid=”87″>To do damage, they would have to touch TV ratings, and by extension future rights deals. And although NBA viewership dropped at both local and national levels last season, there is no evidence that load management had anything to do with the declines. The number of stars who have logged DNP-Rests on TNT, ESPN or ABC is nowhere near as high as the furor around the topic would suggest. It’s certainly nowhere near the number of games missed by stars due to injury.

Perhaps the real worry, though, is the indirect effect of all this kerfuffle. The entire ethos of sport is that the games matter. Competitive purity is the basis on which all successful leagues sell themselves. And in the world’s two most popular leagues, the NFL and EPL, week in and week out, it’s real.

In the NBA, to an extent, it’s a facade. Might “load management” help fans see through that facade?

Load management, ultimately, is a response to other NBA problems, not a problem in and of itself.

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