The NBA is a global league, we’re an upwardly mobile society, and people sure do love to watch sports in person. This is why the NBA won’t be cutting out the 82-game season any time soon, as it still wants the Utah Jazz to visit Boston once per season, and this is why the a la carte version of NBA League Pass should be coming down the pike sooner rather than later: New York Knicks fans working in Olympia, WA still want to watch their team tip off at 4:30 local time.
This is also why the habit of sitting stars due to rest or nagging injury is a tough sell to many fans. It’s one thing to disappoint a home crowd full of regulars, but it’s something else entirely to disappoint fans that travel great distances to the home arena of a team that is opposing the crew of stars you decided bench, Mr. Sensible Coach.
This is where Steve Kerr, a great and sensible coach, failed fans of the Splash Brothers on Friday. Kerr rested three starters and supersub Andre Iguodala on Friday in a road game against the Denver Nuggets in order to give them some needed rest. Via CBS Sports, this didn’t sit well with those that spent a significant chunk of change just to see Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson do their thing in person:
@HPbasketball FWIW I bought my son and friends 8 tix to tonights Nuggets game for his birthday party because Steph is his favorite player
— Justin Taylor (@justintaylor7) March 13, 2015
@SteveKerr Nothing like spending $250 on tickets for my son's 7th birthday only for you to bench his favorite player. Thanks Steve.
— Justin Taylor (@justintaylor7) March 13, 2015
Sigh. That is an appropriate response. Stephen Curry, the Warriors’ MVP candidate, is the favorite player of quite a few people; people that don’t always live in the Bay Area. This particular fan (and son) live in Denver; but NBA outposts in Denver, Salt Lake City, Memphis and Minneapolis often serve as a fan’s particular Last Chance Diner due to their proximity to NBA-less regions. It’s more than possible that some fans from northeast Nebraska may have trekked over a state and a half in order to buy tickets to see the guy that dropped 37 points in one quarter.
Kerr likely knew this heading into Friday evening, prior to doing what was best for his team. He followed up the night by doing what was best for his soul, in a way, by emailing several fans that had gotten in touch with Kerr to express their disappointment after paying to watch 35 minutes of Justin Holiday.
"There's two really good sides to the story," Kerr said. "Nobody's wrong here. ... I can't argue with them."
One of the emails Kerr received was from a family that drove from South Dakota to the Mile High City with high hopes of seeing All-Stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson lead the Western Conference's top team. Instead, those two rested along with centre Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala.
"I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets," Kerr said. "I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It's a tricky one. It's something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he's talking about.
"Its' real important, because our fans deserve to see the best product out there. If somebody spends a lot of money, they deserve to see the best players, the guy that they came to see. On the other hand, as coaches we have to do what's best to prepare our teams for a really long year."
“They've been going full bore since July," coach Steve Kerr said of resting Curry and Thompson, referring to their time spent winning the FIBA World Cup.
"They're fried right now, so that's the reason.”
Kerr referenced utilizing SportVU cameras to diagnose his weary team’s problem, pointing out that Curry, Iguodala and Thompson had run an incredibly amount of miles since the season started (Andrew Bogut is just perpetually beat to hell as he acts as the linchpin of the NBA’s best defense), and that the rest solution didn’t just come because of what Kerr referred to as “the eye test.”
Outside of good sense and tact from both sides, there aren’t really a whole lot of obvious solutions to this problem.
Fans overwhelmingly want the best players representing their country, which means stars are going to be asked to train in July and play in August and September every couple of summers when FIBA or the Olympics comes calling. Fans want entertainment in fall and winter, and they love the playoffs in spring and summer. They’re going to want Steph Curry, or Kevin Durant, or LeBron James or any number of stars to be at their best in mid-June when the games matter the most.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
Displaced fans are also going to take advantage of that one time a year when their favorite team jets over three time zones in order to play in their adopted hometown. And even though the Warriors and Nuggets share a conference, Friday marked the only time this season that Golden State would be performing in Denver. It’s not as if those Stephen Curry fans had the option to pick a game earlier in the season. Hell, Gregg Popovich doesn’t even wait until the end of the season to rest his guys on the road.
The NBA has to uphold that 82-game tradition in order to suit all kinds, and it also has to keep it up in order to make a ton of money. What it also needs to do is to extend the season by a week in October and a week in June in order to eliminate back-to-back games and four-games-in-five-night schedules.
That doesn’t completely address the reasons Steve Kerr had in place for resting his players on Friday, in spite of the fact that the Warriors were setting up for the first game of a back-to-back.
The league is evolving into a fluid, five-man setup that features performers of ever-increasing athletic ability moving far more often. We’re past the slowed down and strong-side heavy play of the mid-1990s, or the two-man pick-and-roll nonsense that doomed the fin de siècle. There’s a lot of running going on, even in what used to be staid half-court sets.
We’re getting what we asked for, and what we’re asking for is going to tire players. Outside of working on the schedule, being nice in an email reply, and enjoying Steph Curry’s highlights from the next night, there isn’t a whole lot smart NBA teams can do about this at the current stage.
- - - - - - -