Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy on resting players: I just hope we consider the fans

NEW YORK -- Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy weighed in on the ongoing controversy surrounding NBA players sitting out regular-season games. While he isn’t exactly thrilled about the DNP-rest trend and doesn’t rest players himself, he made a point of not criticizing others for doing things differently.

“Everybody’s got to make decisions based on what’s best for them and their organization,” Van Gundy said before the Pistons played the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. “I think every owner, every president, GM, coach have got to make those decisions. My only thing is that I hope that everybody, when they’re making the decisions, whatever it is they decide, at least factors the fans into the decision. To me, look, I think the perspective we tend to lose in this league is who we get paid by. And we get paid by the fans. 

“We get paid by the fans in the arena, we get paid by the fans on TV,” Van Gundy continued. “And so you may come to the decision still that it’s best to rest guys. I get that. But hopefully you’ve at least factored in the fans and their experience and what we’re doing with that. And then whatever decision you come to -- look, everybody, they’re not easy decisions. I’m not trying to criticize anybody else specifically. I just hope we do consider the fans because I think in large part, maybe in all of pro sports, we tend to disregard the fans. And without them, we don’t have pro sports.”

Van Gundy said he’d be “perfectly comfortable” if an owner wanted to get involved with a discussion about the issue, but it has “never come up because we’ve never tried to rest anybody.” On Monday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to the board of governors saying that it is unacceptable for owners to “defer decision-making authority on these matters to others in their organizations.” In Van Gundy’s opinion, everybody -- including the people who make the decisions to rest players -- understands that “this isn’t great for the league.” Some teams just have different priorities. He also sounded a bit mystified at the suggestion that the season is too long, as this wasn’t a widespread concern decades ago. 

“If 82 games is too much, then, yeah, look at shortening the schedule,” Van Gundy said. “Now that will also decrease revenue. Are we all ready to do that? You know, I don’t like the idea, though, just philosophically, of saying we’re going to pay people for 82 and play ‘em less than that. Ideally -- I don’t think anybody would disagree with this -- ideally you’d like to have a schedule whereas your healthy players play every night, so the fans have an idea who they’re going to see. So I think that’s ideal. 

“I don’t know if it’s become too much. I mean, the one thing I said today, and again I’m not trying to make light of it, but this is stuff going on in all sports. It is a little bit amazing to me that we tout all the time how much better a job we do taking care of our players. So, years ago, it was commercial travel -- get up at 4:30 in the morning, get to the airport. Play a couple of back-to-back-to-backs during the year. There were no nutrition experts. There were no sleep experts. And those guys played 82 games, 40-plus minutes a night, every single night. Now we have all of these things that we take care of people better, and yet they can do less. So I don’t know. We supposedly condition people better, they take better care of their bodies, we make their travel easier, but they can’t do as much. I don’t know. To me, something is missing. But that’s just me. I’m probably not smart enough to figure out why that is.”

Let’s play devil’s advocate on that last point: Is there really evidence that players could do more when nobody was resting? I’d argue that, when retired players go on about how much tougher the league used to be, they conveniently neglect to mention all the careers that ended early because of injuries that could have been prevented. This is a lot like when old-school types talk about how much more physical the game used to be, they usually leave out the part about how the game has evolved in other ways -- defense has become much more sophisticated and demanding in order to keep up with offenses that feature much more shooting and movement. Players surely could have used rest days all along, and they might need them even more now. 

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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