ABC's broadcast crew calls the Cavaliers 'an absolute joke' for resting their players

Ball Don't Lie
At least LeBron James gets paid to sit in a front-row seat. (AP)
At least LeBron James gets paid to sit in a front-row seat. (AP)

For the second consecutive week, the NBA’s primetime Saturday night game will be played without some of the biggest names on the bill, as the Cleveland Cavaliers announced hours before their matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will all rest.

A week after the Golden State Warriors rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala — with Kevin Durant already injured — against the San Antonio Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard (concussion) and LaMarcus Aldridge (heart murmur), the Cavs are pulling the same move, and the folks working for the NBA’s television partner at ABC aren’t too happy about it.

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After Michael Wilbon questioned how Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson — he of the 437 consecutive game streak — can beg his way into the game and James couldn’t, ABC turned to Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, who respectively called the decision “an absolute joke” and “a prosecutable offense.”

“I understand the medical information that we are acquiring,” said Jackson. “I even understand that we are getting more and more data to protect the players, but this still is an absolute joke. Who is protecting the fans? Who is protecting the game of basketball? Something’s gotta be done.”

“If this was any other business, it would be a prosecutable offense — this type of bait-and-switch maneuver that the NBA allows its teams to pull,” added Van Gundy, “and quite frankly, if you look at the athletic performance teams, these groups that are supposedly preventing injury, when I look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’ve been injured all year, so how good are they doing at what they say the can accomplish?”

Play-by-play broadcaster Mike Breen capped the segment by pointing out that James, Irving and Love are all scheduled to play on Sunday night, when the Cavs play the L.A. Lakers in the same building.

The benefits of rest have been the subject of studies by the league office, individual teams and their medical and training staffs for some time now. The 82-game NBA schedule causes fatigue, which creates an increased risk of injury. No matter how many people scream about players not resting in the days of yore, the fact remains sitting on certain nights at particular points of the year can keep players fresher for the playoffs and prolong their careers. In the long run, that’s a good thing.

But when the news drops hours before a nationally televised game? That’s frustrating for anyone settling in on the couch for a night of professional basketball — and even more so for fans who may have paid thousands of dollars to attend a game LeBron & Co. should otherwise be playing. Obviously, those fans ran the risk of missing any one of those players on the road trip due to injury, but when a healthy James is literally sipping coffee on the end of the bench, it’s a whole lot harder to swallow.

Both Wilbon and Van Gundy made salient points. Thompson is the only member of the Cavs to have played all 67 games so far this season, so wouldn’t he be more in need of rest than James or Irving? And Love returned to action on Thursday after missing a month with an injured left knee. If he was healthy enough to play 20 minutes against the Utah Jazz two nights earlier, did he need the rest?

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall is among those who argue if you’re healthy enough to play, you should play, because you owe it to the fans. “That’s the difference about our league now,” Wall told CSN Mid-Atlantic this week. “It’s kind of gotten a little softer. Guys sit out and rest.” True to form, he fought through a recent foot injury to play in both games of a back-to-back this weekend.

“I’m not the type of guy who wants to sit down and rest. I think you owe it to the fans,” added Wall. “They paid money to come see us play. That’s how a professional goes out there and competes. If nothing is hurt, you can play go play.”

Then, there’s the matter of Cleveland picking this game over Sunday’s matchup to rest their stars. Granted, LeBron has more than 40,000 minutes under his belt, while Irving and Love have extensive injury histories, but did they need to sit out this game? One way or another, ticket-buying fans will miss out, but things get more complicated when a national TV audience is involved.

The Cavs-Lakers game will be shown on NBA TV, but Saturday against the Clippers is the NBA’s signature game of the week. When you’re the Walt Disney Company, who recently re-upped with the league for an estimated annual cost of $1.2 billion to broadcast games on ESPN and ABC, it’s got to be pretty maddening when teams sit players and allow any number of would-be viewers to tune out. Not to mention the advertisers who ponied up big bucks to run ads while LeBron was attracting eyeballs.

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If anybody actually kept their TV tuned to ABC after tipoff on Saturday, they probably didn’t stick around past the first half, when the Cavs finished 0-for-13 from 3-point range and scored 31 points. Inside Staples Center, the crowd erupted into “We want LeBron!” chants as the game got out of hand:

The end result was a 108-78 win for the Clips.

The NBA, to its credit, understands this problem, and they are reportedly taking measures to start next season two weeks earlier and limit the number of back-to-back games throughout the year. Whether it’s too late to win back the casual fan who might write the NBA off as “an absolute joke” after seeing the league’s broadcast partners describe it as such on national television remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, ABC will take the next two Saturday nights off from the NBA and return on April 8 for a showdown between the Clippers and Spurs, the latter of whom will be coming off a game the night before. So, be sure to tune in then, when Austin Rivers and David Lee headline the marquis matchup.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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