Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 at 9:00 am  |  67 responses

Should Healthy Stars Be Forced to Play?

by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

It’s a question that Playoff-bound teams face almost every year: they face the wrath of fans and media alike for smartly electing to rest their best players in the final, meaningless games of the regular season, in an effort to preserve their bodies for the grueling Playoff run.

Prime examples are the Lakers and Cavs, two teams most people expect to meet in the NBA Finals, who have both decided to shut down their stars for the remainder of the season. Kobe Bryant has a laundry-list of injuries to tend to, so no one is blaming him for taking some time off, but in the case of LeBron James, he’s hearing it from all sides.

Larry Brown made a typically snide remark about playing his starters in the season finale, and a writer out of Orlando made the wholly ridiculous declaration that LBJ lost his MVP vote because he didn’t deign to play in all 82 games.

NBA.com takes a look at the decision to sit, or not to sit players at this time of year:

Still, miscommunication is an obvious pitfall when NBA players and coaches veer from their overriding mission: Play to win, period. Tonight. Every game. Worrying about a superstar’s fatigue level a week into the future or a key performer’s availability six months from now (or career six years from now) is not standard operating procedure, so it’s no surprise when things get murky.

This doesn’t even address the obligation teams might have to each other, if the outcome of their “high-level practice” might have an impact beyond their own R&R. For instance, James had 19, 13 and six against Toronto on April 6, compared to zero, zero and zero at Chicago on April 8. Cavs won the former, lost the latter, and the Raptors might find themselves edged out of the playoffs by one game.

Also, there is the obligation to fans who might have saved all year to finally attend one game, only to wind up with an understudy playing Nathan Lane’s role that night. It happens, but no one likes it on Broadway and no one likes it in the NBA. Check that — the Nets fans probably were thrilled that Noah was on the side cheering for most of the extra 10 minutes Friday. But even road fans don’t like it when James or another marquee player “rests” on the night they have tickets. All of which makes us grateful that the final week of the NBA regular season lasts just seven days.

It’s a salient point: this is something that we only have to deal with for a short period of time, and an issue that will quickly be forgotten once the Playoffs roll around.

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  • Ramn

    a warning to anyone who argues against sitting players out: CHRIS BOSH. If the Raps could have sat him, you know they would’ve. Too bad…

  • Ken

    Say they do force healthy stars to play…and then they happen to get injured. I think the answer is obvious. If the team doesn’t want to risk injuring their stars, they shouldn’t be forced to.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    I think that should be paid for the games they miss when healthy.

  • cru_thik305

    82 games in the regular and people are tripping over players sitting the last 3 or 4? lol, crazy

  • Yesse

    No they should not. They play good and they deserve rest if you ask me. I think that’s a matter between the coach and a player.

  • http://thekobebeef.wordpress.com LDR4

    Meaningless games? Ah, you must be talking about the Leastern Conference. Expect 2-8 in the West to play all their players these last two days of the regular season.Every team reserves the right to rest their players down the stretch. The fans aren’t the ones paying their saleries. Is it disappointing to watch a game where the stars do not play? Sure is. But guess what, playoffs start Saturday so stop moaning and growning.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    1. Prove that the player is healthy. “Oh, I have a bit of a cold today, my nose is blocked”.
    “Well, YOU can’t play today then LeBron. Don’t be silly!”
    You just can’t say a guy is “faking” – it’s like when you’d complain of having headaches in HS to leave the classroom.
    2. If you’re a Nets/Warriors/Wolves fan, don’t buy tickets for the last 5 games of the regular season vs. teams vying for the top seed in their conference. It’s called forward thinking. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Lots of it. Go and watch another top tier team play 2 weeks earlier.

  • neaorin

    This reminds me of last year when the Cavs decided to rest LBJ vs. Philly and lost their chance at the all-time home record. Remember all the commotion after that one? Yeah, me neither.

  • http://slamonline.com MooButter

    Peyton manning sits one or two games at the end of every season and they only play 16 freaking games. Cry me a river. If the team has worked hard all year to put themselves in that position, it is an advantage they are deserving of. As far as the fans are concerned? They rather miss Lebron for a few games and win a championship while being carried on Lebron James well rested back. Cosign the Bosh comment too.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/farmer-jones/ Ryan Jones

    Why stop at forcing them to play meaningless late-season games? Guys like LeBron should have to play 48 minutes PER in every single pre-, regular and postseason game. If they only play, say, 42 minutes, the fans should get (counts on fingers…) 15 percent of their ticket price back. Joe Lunchpail or whatever the f*ck his name is didn’t pay hard-earned money to see LeBron catch his breath at the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters.
    While we’re at it, fans should also get full refunds if guys miss games while sick or injured, and free beer and hot dogs if players score 5 points below their season average. Oh, and on the off chance that the star player fouls out or gets ejected? Free h@ndjobs for everyone.
    Did I forget anything?

  • JoeMaMa

    I like how I can now justify that the Raptors didn’t make playoffs because of Lebron. It’s a great way to deflect responsibility for losing, and now I focus on Vernon Wells hitting home runs again!

  • http://www.threadsandkicks.com.au Eduardo

    82 games is a lot. The soccer leagues in Europe make the best examples by resting players during certain games. But then again in the NBA they do have the ability to rest marquee players more during a 48minute game. To use their subs wisely. Lakers could have played Kobe less while injured and Cav’s could have played LeBron less with the acquisition of Jamison particularly when games start blowing out to 15 points or more.

    Then again if you look back at the 90′s such Hall of Famer’s and Dream Teamer’s played in all 82 games.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Random observation: Shaquille looked like a pro in that suit/powertie combo last night… a pro politician.

  • cramzy

    i know that feeling of saving up to see one game and the star doesn’t play (d-wade!..but he was hurt). I’m on the fence about this one but there really is no need to play Lebron if you’re the Cavs. Brandon Roy, Chris Bosh, Andrew Bogut…I can see Mike Brown being very cautious about this.

  • kobesbestfriend

    i say let the stars sit if it doesnt mean anything…i’d rather see mo williams,jamison, and others get to play without that ballhogging gloryhound lebron taking all the spotlight anyways!!!

  • Sparty’s Law

    If they are not playing they should be strictly prohibited from dancing around like idiots. See James, LeBron.

  • ab_40

    shaq lost 20 pounds not playing. I hope he plays in their season finale. So he can practice dunking noahs or bargianis face of hehe. Besides the first round of the playoffs(get real boston is gonna clusterfcku the heat) the playofs are gonna be great. I’m excited.
    OKC vs Lakers. KD and Kobe are gonna get in a shootout with kobe completely forgeting that he has great players playing beside him. Still it’s gonna be 4-1 or 4-2 for the lake show.

  • T-Money

    Journos keep inventing ways for LeBron to ”disrespect” the Game. From not entering dunk contests to wearing #6 (how dare he) to having fun on the sidelines to resting before the playoffs to not shaking hands after a playoff loss(something that Kobe AND Wade have done in the last 2 years). What is he gonna do next, piss on the NBA logo?!

  • http://SLAMonline.com GotHandles?


  • http://www.slamonline.com wayno

    @ T-money – FACT: he also hates America and Jesus.

  • http://www.teflinprague.com SAB

    this is plain stupid. if the players are FORCED to play unless they have an injury, they’ll just say they have an injury… and these last few games, we’d have seen LeBron listed as injured reserve, strained unspecific… why did i even comment?? this is one of those “i’m bored but i’ve got to write SOMETHING” news stories… zzzzzz….

  • Scully


    How about also making them part of the half time show? The fans deserve that too after shelling out all their money to see 1 person. They should also incorporate them into the cheerleaders routines at timeouts.

  • http://www.springbored.net letsmotor

    i don’t have a problem with resting players, but i can’t for the life of me understand why the cavs would rest lebron against the magic. this is the team who embarrassed you in the ecf last year. why wouldn’t you want to go at them full force and see how you match up against them?

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    @ Ryan – pretty sure Laker girls already offer h@ndjobs at halftime
    @ wayno – it’s official, LeBron = Obama

  • Alvin

    the stars should play….this aint the NFL, by sitting the key cogs, organizations are robbing the fans money, the fans wanna see the top dogs play

  • kennyrocks

    but its strategy in the lower sense of the word, rest your star players, avoid potential injuries, as a fan you should be aware that if your team has a good history of gaining first seed the past few seasons, you probably shouldnt waste your “year long saved” cash on the last few pointless games. why not save more and buy a playoff ticket? wouldnt that be a more fun and entertaining atmosphere? plus there is zero chance not seeing your stars play, and at a much higher level too!

  • http://www.teflinprague.com SAB

    letsmotor – are you kidding me?! if Lebron plays, Orlando can practice how they’re going to defend him… they literally DON’T want Orlando to see how they match up against them…

  • http://big11mel@yahoo.com Big Mel

    The networks should be prohibited from showing Lebron from dancing around,or showing him cheer or showing him period,they showed him more than when he actually played in a game.

  • wilz

    hey LDR4, 2-8 are playing in the east as well. Cavs are first. foot in mouth.

  • wilz

    its obvious nobody had the balls to tell lebron he couldnt dance in high school

  • Rob

    If you are NBA’s top team with the best record and your home court advantage is secured, it’s understandable if you wanna protect the player who can get you to the finals. As a team, as a coach and as a player you got nothing else to win and plenty to lose.

  • Michael Scorn

    The idea is for the biggest stars to play the least amount of minutes. Always has been. Seems like it’s always hard to get people to do stuff that you pay them to do.

  • Michael Scorn

    Look out for Dwight Howard. He has a lot of energy saved up from not participating in the slam dunk contest.

  • Michael Scorn

    LeBron should have sat out the all-star game too.

  • Roc

    Bird would have played.

  • Rob

    We can’t hope for NBA players to have the same courage and honor as Bird, Magic, MJ or other legends used to have back in the day (Kobe is old school thank God). The game is different. The league, the media, and the sponsors have changed everything. This is the game we have today, where pampering and indulgence happens. Take it or leave it. I still love this game.

  • tomtom

    without even reading the rest of your article, just reading the title. NO ofcourse not. Its down to the individual and the team, thats the way pro sports always has been and there is no need for a change.

  • Tommy Patron

    @Ryan-Then the NBA shouldn’t have made itself a star driven league. The league and its media partners advertise the stars, not the teams, and people pay for the product as such. I don’t think there should be a rule that players are required to play, which would be easily circumvented anyway, but it’s still bs for the paying fan.

  • http://slamonline BossTerry

    No. Its the coaches decision.. If the game is meaningless and wont effect playoff positioning with a potential loss. I say rest your guys. But take into conderation that a loss is highly possible.


    No, it’s obviously a strategic move to sit the player, especially so close to the playoffs beginning…It should simply discussed by the coach and the player…now some fans may be upset because they pay to see the star play…so maybe letting the star play a small amount of minutes may help but no one should be forced to play…

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/farmer-jones/ Ryan Jones

    Tommy: I’ve literally read your comment like 12 times trying to get my head around it. Here’s why I think I’m so confused: You’re smart enough to acknowledge that this is all about marketing and capitalism, yet in the same breath you chastise the league for not forcing its most valuable assets to perform when it benefits neither those assets nor the league as a whole. Essentially, you acknowledge why the point you’re about to make is pointless right before you try to make it.
    This is either really clever or a little embarrassing. I’m leaning toward the latter.

  • Kendrick is God

    this is bull coaches can play who they want when they want its their job and no-one else should get a say on their rotation; resting players is a deserved luxury for the top teams if its unfair on teams still in the race then maybe they should’ve secured the one seed and stop moaning!

  • http://www.springbored.net letsmotor

    @SAB: that’s a good point, they are hurting orlando in that way. still, if that’s cleveland’s mentality, i have to disagree with it. although they are denying orlando the chance to practice guarding lebron, they’re also denying themselves the chance to practice running their offense (which lebron is obviously a huge part of) against orlando. and who needs the practice more? i say the team that got man handled in the playoffs last year.

  • Conoro

    Ryan Jones, you aren’t funny. So stop trying, please.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/farmer-jones/ Ryan Jones

    See, that last comment was much easier for me to follow.

  • The Philosopher

    A lot of people are calling out LeBron and his “connections”. What’s funny is people are acting like they’re suprised. I’ll say this: For those who don’t know who Phil Knight is, look him up, connect the dots.

  • Coney Islander

    Do people know how it feels to play basketball all out for 6 months!? I’ve played pick ups for a summer and my knees felt like hamburger helper and keep in mind the average pro basketball player is a trained mutant! The average center in the league is like 6’10 250lbs so if your a slasher and those ORCS have been beating on you by all means sit out the last few meaning less games. If they force players to play at years end all that’s gonna happen is a quick timeout after the tip and to the bench that super star goes!

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    I just read Tommy’s comment and was mindBLASTED. LOL. Most contradictory statement ever!

  • http://www.slamonline.com wayno

    My face just exploded after reading Tommy’s post…

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    Ryan I think your as funny as Anton, maybe even moreso – on a side note. I paid for Nash to hit 100% of his free throws, not 92%. I want 8% of my money back.

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    It all comes down to how healthy you are doesnt it – Kobe just isn’t a very good player, getting fingers broken and skulking around when Pau/Artest or Bynum miss shots, probably because Kobe passed the ball too hard at them (and to their off hand no doubt). I know if I was getting paid 17 million to pass the ball to Bynum I would d@mm near rifle it at his face.. LeBron sure, he gets into people on the court (but Tiger got into more off it…) but he just doesn’t have that staying power, you know like the John Stocktons or A.C. Greens of former years. I paid for short shorts and biased refs and michael jordan tearing every opponent a new one (even in the last game of the season). I paid for David Robinson, scoring 71 points in the final game of the season to take the scoring title, if only LeBron had that same desire, the gumption, the gaul, the balls. Oh well, I wait for the next superstar to reveal themselves.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Question, Dacre: Do you think Anton is funny?

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    ANSWER: I would not be lying if I said that Anton has said, or posted rather, amusing things on slamonline over the years I have been a reader to the site. Mind you, there are a few guys on here that regularly bring the humour – Jukai, Moose, Albiekenobi, Darksaber (jedi love in the house?!) and thats just the fellow readers. I think what makes Anton particularly funny is the nuance of sceptic self-loathing coupled with an insight and attention to detail that alot of the younger readers don’t get or see and thereforethink that Anton is ‘g@y with his self’. Which is the complete opposite. It’s just really hard to see (thats what she said).
    Let me say in no uncertain terms though, that Russ Bengston is still the KING of comments on this thread.
    I’m just waiting for the double header to start on (ten)ONE HD at 12noon today.

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    As for me, I’ve been accused of being a racist, labeled if you will and that cuts deep so I took some time off, made some multicultural friends and return with an appreciation for the variety. Still think Euro’s are soft with the exception of Dirk…

  • http://dsfjklf.com Jukai

    Ryan Jones, you aren’t funny. So stop trying, please.

  • http://dsfjklf.com Jukai

    I like all the people ranting about how the league is star driven and it’s the L’s own fault for causing this commotion. If this is the said case, wouldn’t it be beneficial for the league to sit stars 3-4 games before the playoffs, so, you know, they don’t get injured and miss the playoffs?
    No one thought of this?

  • barnabusb

    This is an easy problem to fix — don’t buy tickets for the last 5-10 games of the season. If nobody shows up, the league might take notice and change something.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Good point Jukai. I definitely would rather see the stars play in the playoffs than to see them in the last few games in limited action and not trying.
    Granted, the playoffs are a time when ticket sales are ridiculous, and many people simply can’t afford to watch arena games in the postseason.

  • Shem

    82 games is a lot, and definetly wares down players but if your a fan who bought tickets to a game, it ain’t far. It wasn’t fair to cavs fans who bought tickets for the last games and don’t get their moneys worth. But having LeBron tear his ACL in the final game is something alot worse so no, let em rest

  • barnabusb

    Again, just don’t buy tickets to the last few games of the year. It’s just that easy.

  • The Philosopher

    Shortening the season may solve a lot of problems across the board, in my opinion.

  • Daniel

    at this point in the season, no one is healthy.

  • http://www.threadsandkicks.com.au Eduardo

    Resting Lebron against the Magic gives the Magic a big confidence boost going into the playoffs. He should have played this game at least so the Cav’s definitely knew that they could beat a strong Magic team. Magic didn’t rest Howard for the game and now they’ll be riding high going into the playoffs.

  • http://myspace.com/weezyleezy337 GametimeWeezy

    haha u guys crack me up…but Dacre, man u completly lost me. But anyways…yea of course players are gonna sit. In baseball they’ll give guys a break here n there (Jorge Posada) every 15-20 or so games Jeter will sit. Nobody says “gimme my money back”…what kind of FOOLISHNESS is that? In football the Colts ruined their PERFECT SEASON last year to rest up for the playoffs. Patriots played THEIR starters last game of the season and look what happened….WES WELKER blew his KNEE out. Theres no way the NBA is gonna force stars to play, thats just dumb.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Dacre: yep, Jedilove indeed.

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    gametimeweezy – I was just giving it a little pre-post season sarcasm and jovial-ness… I’m psyched for the playoffs something FIERCE as all decent fans are, and not just those that buy one single ticket for the final game of the regular season and then complain because they only wanted to watch Kobe get fed up with his douche team mates. LETS GO SUNS/MAVS/BUCKS/JAZZ/CLEVELAND/SPURS/PORTLAND/LAKERS…in that order.

  • http://theurbangriot.com/ NUPE

    Part of me believes that a team is responsible for putting out the best product on the floor every night giving them the best chance of winning evey game. When your best players sit, the team is not living up to thier responsibility to the fans. On the other hand, as a fan I’d prefer my team have the best chance to win a championship and should try to minimize any risk of not doing so. Playing your stars in unecessary minutes/games only puts them at risk of injury and as a fan I’d be a lot more upset if Lebron/Kobe were to play the last game of the season (that doesn’t mean anything) and then get hurt making them unable to play in the playoffs. What I really want from my team is a championship (not just winning games) and whatever gives the team the best shot of winning it all, is what I really want them to do.