If you ask anyone in or around the NBA what the biggest problem facing the league is, there's a high probability that many of them will say load management. It's an issue that's been a topic of discussion around the NBA for years, and gets resurfaced every time a team rests star players. There hasn't been an adequate solution to resolve this issue, but the league has tried its hardest to prevent it from happening. First, it was limiting the number of back-to-back games on the schedule, especially ahead of nationally televised matchups so that the biggest stars are playing in the marquee matchups. But that hasn't eradicated the issue.
Now, the league will be handing down harsher penalties for teams that decide to rest players in certain situations. On Wednesday, the league's Board of Governors voted to approve the new player participation policy, which will see teams receiving hefty fines if they sit a star player in a nationally televised game or an in-season tournament game, sit multiple stars in the same game or shut down a star player for a long stretch of the season. The policy will go into effect at the beginning of the 2023-24 season.
The league has defined "star" players for the purposes of this policy as those who have made an All-Star or All-NBA team in the past three seasons. (.) The fines will be as follows for each violation:
- $100,000 for first violation
- $250,000 for a second violation
- $1 million more than the previous fine for any additional violation (i.e. $1.25 million for the third violation, $2.25 million for fourth, etc.)
The NBA can investigate a player's availability, and an investigation will now be triggered automatically if a star player misses a national TV or in-season tournament game, multiple star players miss the same game or there are inconsistent public statements about a star player's availability, per ESPN.
There are exceptions to the rules: If a team contacts the NBA at least a week before a back-to-back, it can seek approval to sit a star who is 35 or older on opening night or has played either 34,000 regular-season minutes or a combined 1,000 regular-season and playoff games -- Mike Conley, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, James Harden and LeBron James qualify here -- or seek approval to sit a star because of a prior injury. In other words, the Clippers could reasonably seek permission for Kawhi Leonard to sit back-to-backs coming off of his torn meniscus.
Teams appear to have gone overboard with their desire to exercise caution during the regular season in the league's eyes. NBA commissioner Adam Silver won't have that, though.
"If you're a healthy player in this league the expectation is that you're going to play," Silver said in a press conference regarding the issue on Wednesday. "This is an acknowledgment that it has gotten too far a bit," he added.
We'll have to see how seriously teams and players take these new rules, but it's clear that the league will try anything to avoid their top talent sitting out games, especially ones that are nationally televised.