What Is NBA Load Management?

What Is NBA Load Management

There are many reasons why NBA players miss games, including injuries, illnesses, personal reasons, being involved in trade discussions, or being suspended. But what about when a healthy, available player misses games for seemingly no reason? This is known as load management, and the practice has come under heavy criticism recently. Read on to learn more about load management in the NBA.

What Is Load Management?

Load management is when a healthy player is held out of playing in a game for rest or precautionary reasons. This is done for the purpose of avoiding long-term fatigue and injuries. It has become a common practice in the NBA in recent years, due to the league’s relatively long 82-game regular season schedule, plus additional playoff games. The decision to rest an available player is usually made by the coaching staff and player together. It is commonly seen with star players, teams with championship aspirations, and veteran players, especially when teams have back-to-back games.

How Did Load Management Start?

The origin of the term “load management” can be traced back to the 2010s when the San Antonio Spurs would rest their top players. In 2012, the Spurs were fined $250,000 for resting four key players during a much anticipated, nationally televised matchup with the Miami Heat. David Stern, the NBA Commissioner at the time, said, “The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.” Even though the Spurs were penalized for resting key players, load management has become more common over the past 10 years, with star players such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard frequently sitting out games to focus on their long-term health.

Why Is Load Management Criticized?

Load management is widely criticized in the NBA because many fans come to games specifically to watch their favorite players but end up disappointed if the player sits out even though he is not hurt. For example, in a recent game against the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler was a late scratch. A young fan who flew over 4,000 miles to see Butler play was devastated. However, the Heat made it up to the young fan by giving him a signed Jimmy Butler jersey and a basketball signed by several players. While this is a heartwarming example of a team making amends, this is usually not the case. Fans will often buy tickets and make travel plans well in advance of the game, so they are naturally frustrated when at the last minute, their favorite players aren’t playing for seemingly no reason.

Teams and players also receive a large amount of criticism for participating in load management from players who played before the load management era. For example, long-time player Richard Jefferson criticized the current culture of the league, saying, “Players in this generation are doing more of what they are told instead of going out there and leaving it all on the floor.” NBA legend Charles Barkley expressed his excitement for team owners to do something to fix the load management problem in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, “I see guys that got a sore hip or something. I'm like, everybody is sore in the NBA after 20-30-40 games. I think it's going to be very interesting in the next CBA because billionaires always win against millionaires and I think those owners are going to try to do something." It is clear that former players are not fans of load management and believe players’ job is to be on the court as long as they’re healthy.