If you’ve tuned in to watch any NBA games so far this season, you’ve probably heard the new and rather controversial term “load management” being thrown around quite a bit.
Load management refers to teams resting their star players over an 82-game season so they are ready, healthy and rested for the games that come in the far more important post-season.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Everyone deserves a day off every now and again, you suggest?
The big deal is that the NBA is a star-driven league. When a superstar like Kawhi Leonard, a player with whom this term has become most associated, decides to sit out a nationally televised game or worse yet, a game in an arena where fans who pay good money might only get to see him once a year, that’s when people start to cry foul.
When it comes to debating matters like these, I turn to my internet partner in crime, J-Dub, founder of Dubsism who, when I’m called a grumpy old man, always reminds me that there are people out there far grumpier than I.
Upon suggesting that he and I tackle the issue of load management, I wondered where two old school fellows such as ourselves would fall. Personally, I’m a fan of work. In fact, I’m not sure I can recall the last time I called in sick. It was probably back in the day when they had rotary phones that still connected to a jack in the wall and I sure as heckfire don’t make what Kawhi Leonard makes in a year.
Without sounding like one of those back in the day we used to haul giant blocks of ice up three flights of stairs, play 82 games with our limbs barely attached and get off my lawn old farts, I thought I’d throw it to Dubsy first to see where he stands (or reclines) on the issue of load management.
Sir, your thoughts?
J-Dub: “Load Management” Is Code For Other Problems The NBA Doesn’t Know How To Fix
That should read more like “pant-load management,” because it’s all a bunch of shit. “Load management” is all about a balancing act between the length of the season, the health of the “stars,” and the almighty dollar.
Chump is dead-on when he says this is a star-driven league. It’s been that way since the days of Kareem, Magic, and Larry Legend, right through Jordan to today with Curry, Kawhi, and LeBron. The problem is that the “stars” drive teams which go deep in the play-offs, which means they play a shit-load more basketball than the average bear. That’s exactly why Commissioner Adam “Nosferatu” Silver has been tacitly talking about the length of the NBA season for some time now, and frankly…it’s about time. Even if he did it in the most couched way possible, the fact is the NBA season is simply too fucking long.
The reason why this league has an 82-game schedule can easily be boiled down to one word: money. What is a bit more complex is why this league needs to generate that much cash. However, before we get into that, what’s not helping the quality of the product on the floor is the fact the game’s biggest stars routinely sit out games during the regular season to keep themselves fresh for the post-season, where the real television money gets made. In other words, “load management” is simply an admission of what is and what is not important to the product on the floor.
Again, keeping in mind the NBA is the definition of a “star-driven” league, and remembering the hand-wringing over the flat TV ratings for the last year’s play-offs and the idea of it being because of the “No LeBron” factor, it becomes easy to see where the “give” is going to happen…it’s easier to take a hit in the regular season by letting the stars “phone it in” than to risk shrinking the big pie which is the post-season television money.
That begs the question that if we are already in a place to grasp the idea the regular season is too long, why not just shorten it? Because the turd floating in Commissioner Nosferatu’s punch bowl is that any changes must involve a collectively bargained approval from the players’ union AND the blessing of the owners. The players aren’t going to care as long as they still get paid, but the owners are another story.
The dirty little secret about the NBA owners is this is a group where far too many are essentially economically insolvent without the profit-generating minority. Out of the 30 teams in the NBA, there are 15 which have shown a net loss in at least two of the last three seasons.
- Atlanta Hawks
- Brooklyn Nets
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Charlotte Hornets
- Detroit Pistons
- Orlando Magic
- Indiana Pacers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Sacramento Kings
- Washington Wizards
Following that, there are still 9 teams which showed a loss after revenue sharing, two of which went into the red after making their revenue sharing payments.
- Atlanta Hawks
- Brooklyn Nets
- Cleveland Cavaliers*
- Detroit Pistons
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Orlando Magic
- San Antonio Spurs*
- Washington Wizards
* – showed a net loss after revenue sharing
You can crunch the numbers any way you like or you can even source your own numbers to crunch. The bottom line is a big chunk of this league doesn’t make money. Not only is that not sustainable long-term, it also means there won’t be a change to the schedule before it can be determined there won’t be a concomitant change in revenue.
Hence the compromise/pant-load now known as “load management.”
Chump: Commissioner, where the hell’s my veal?
Therein lies the rub, Dub.
The average fan could give a flying leap about whether their NBA team is turning a profit. They want to be entertained.
When I go to my favorite Italian restaurant, I walk through the door and savor the smell of sautéed garlic and olive oil seeping deliciously from the back. As a customer, I’m doing my part to support that business. I don’t care whether the restaurant is making money. That’s their concern. I just want to know how tender my veal piccata is going to be… and they better have veal on that damn menu.
When fans drop $250, or more, on a ticket to an NBA game, they want their veal. They want to read a stat sheet, not a profit/loss ledger.
As you know, I live in Tampa, making the closest NBA team to me the Orlando Magic. That’s a hearty 90-minute haul through Disney traffic just to get from my door to Amway Arena. If a star player for a certain team is a late scratch because he’s been playing too much, well, let’s just say that’s something I’d like to know before I take out my road rage on the good, taxpaying tourists of the Sunshine State.
If the Milwaukee Bucks, who boast the league’s most exciting player, can’t turn a profit, then perhaps it’s time for the good people of Wisconsin to manage ownership’s load and report them to the Better Business Bureau. Last year’s MVP is drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan and people don’t want to pay money to see that night in and night out?!?
While shortening the NBA season might make sense on the books, like you, I don’t see that happening any time soon. That might increase demand (theoretically) but they’d be killing a steady revenue stream. Even if it did happen, what’s to say that out of a 60-game schedule, Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t only play 44?
The league has lengthened the season in calendar days, allowing for fewer of the dreaded back-to-backs yet we’re still getting guys who play when they feel like it.
So, what’s the league to do? They can’t suspend players. That’d only keep them off the court longer than they’re already off it. The league just fined Doc Rivers and the Clippers $50,000 for providing “inconsistent” information about Kawhi’s playing time #LoadManagementGate. A few more of those might do the trick… or they might not. That doesn’t resolve the fact that fans pay good money for a product they won’t be getting. You can’t expect us to pay star power prices and not provide the stars.
Toronto winning a title with Kawhi only playing sixty games proved that load management works, at least in that sample size of one. Mark Cuban recently called load management “the best thing that ever happened to the league.” As one of the league’s more progressive owners, his is an opinion I usually respect yet I still can’t help but fall back on the whole you-have-a-job-to-do-go-do-it argument.
Players are getting paid to play, yes? So, play!
Conclusion by J-Dub:
I have to admit, once I saw Cuban’s opinion on this, I knew I was right…”load management” is a bunch of shit. Cuban loves it because he’s a typical billionaire worrying about his multi-million dollar investment in players. Let’s face it, a big part of the future of the Dallas Mavericks hinges on Kristaps Porzingis and his surgically-rebuilt knee.
I also have to admit that Chump’s “you-have-a-job-to-do-go-do-it” take just makes sense. The relationship between the fans and the league will become a problem if they keep promising veal piccata and keep delivering Spaghetti-O’s.
But for the Spam-brains like Mark Cuban and commissioner Adam “Nosferatu” Silver, it should be painfully obvious by now nobody buys this pant-load. When two grumpy old men like the Chump and I agree on something, it should scream that in big, bold letters. After all, the Chump is a modern, progressive thinker, and I’m slightly to the right of Genghis Khan. By definition, we aren’t supposed to agree. Why do you think we do a series called “Point-Counterpoint?”
Boil it all down to that amazing veal piccata reduced-wine and chicken stock sauce, and you get this. I think “load management” is all about trying to cover a regular season which is too long in a league where the stars are spread thin and is full of markets that can’t support or may not care about professional basketball. SportsChump is of the belief that this whole shitstorm screws the ticket-buying fans. But just like that white wine and chicken stock combination that come together to make something which dazzles the tongue, for one mystical moment in time Chump’s opinion and mine merge to discover the truth.
Commissioner Nosferatu and Mark Cuban can spice the Spaghetti-O’s all they want, they can’t make it veal piccata. No matter what business you are in, you have to deliver on your promises. You can’t expect to keep a fan base by baiting them with LeBron and delivering LeNinth Guy off the Bench.
In that spirit, here’s my favorite recipe for veal piccata.
Conclusion by SportsChump:
As usual, I don’t know that we’ve really resolved anything here… except what we’re having for dinner. Always a pleasure, my friend.
An interesting tale of two opposing friends. As I read through the dialogue, a question kept coming to mind. It’s a simple one really, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I asked myself, “What happens if the “load management” results in a team not making the money-hungry, pie in the sky, financial windfall that is the playoffs? What if a player holding out hurts more than helps? Again, simple q’s that went through my mind. Sort of the Arsenio Hall “things that make me go hmmm’ type of question?
Shorten the regular season and expand the playoffs. You’re welcome.
I think that’s something we should probably all hope for, but as we know, talent wins in the NBA. A team like the Clippers, with George and Leonard, would have to try really hard to miss the playoffs even in a competitive West.
Say what you will about James Harden. That fucker plays in 82 games… much to the dismay of his teammates who never get to take a shot.
For years, Major League Baseball has talked about shortening its season. Here’s why I don’t think that will ever happen.
The record books are too important to that sport… or at least they were before Bonds, Sosa and McGwire blew by Maris’ old single season home run record of 61. Those numbers meant something. 200 hits, 300 strikeouts, etc. Playing less of a season puts those accomplishments in jeopardy.
While basketball might not have those single-season milestones, making the season anything less than 82 fucks with the overall numbers.
And while a season might be shortened, that doesn’t change the fact that players… still age.
Stay in shape, play some hoops, 82 games worth.. What’s the problem here?
Good point Rev. I was wondering if tanking by some of the bottom feeders was an issue. Would such an incentive help?
I just dumped a can of Spaghettios on a plate of veal. I may be the worst human being ever.
I don’t know if teams like the Bengals are tanking or whether they’re just that bad.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the league did something like that like the NBA has but NFL owners have far more power than NBA owners do.
Fans of those franchises might just have to grin and bear it, trusting that their teams will ultimately right the ship.
It’s a fine line, that’s for sure.
A new Thanksgiving tradition perhaps?