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NBA players are both right, wrong about rest

The NBA has an 82-game schedule in place, and has since the league adopted the current length of slate back in 1967. In the following 50 years, thousands of players have dealt with the demands of back-to-backs and traveling across the country on nary a wink of sleep.

It’s unfortunate, but it is part of being a professional athlete. This is not new.

Yet the idea of taking games off for rest, that’s something that has only become a common practice in the last decade. We saw it all the time with Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. Now it is becoming commonplace with LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. James, who rested this weekend in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

James, who is arguably the greatest player the game has seen since Michael Jordan (and the argument to the contrary is thinner than paper), doesn’t feel any remorse for the decision, per ESPN.

“I’ve played through injuries my whole career,” James added. “So I deserve to get a game [off] every now and then.”

So the question persists: should the NBA take better care of its current players, or should the current players toughen up?


The NBA could be doing plenty to lighten the load on its employees. There is no reason to be playing so deep into June, something that could be rectified by chopping off eight contests from the schedule. Of course, the NBA won’t be doing that any time soon because of television contracts and ticket money, so that’s out the window.

A more practical solution is to keep the length of the schedule as is, but to start playing earlier in October. This would eliminate some of the consecutive nights where teams hit the hardwood. There would still be some back-to-backs, but you likely cut a half-dozen off the slate.

However, much of the onus is on the players. The NHL also plays 82 games in the regular season and players rarely, if ever, take a day off when healthy. The sport of hockey is a brutal ballet, every bit as much and often so, much more, than the NBA. Basketball is a taxing sport to be sure, but the NHL exacts a brutal toll on its players, including defeneemen who are typically on the ice for 25-30 minutes per game and have to take on the physicality of a football player.

Today’s athletes have better medicine, care and travel than ever before. James and his contemporaries need to stop whining and get on the floor. Ultimately, this is their job. This isn’t a game. It’s a business. Everyone involved is paid handsomely. Get on the court and earn your money. Hopefully the people in the upper crust of the league do their part as well, and start really thinking of solutions to an ugly problem.

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