In the NBA today, teams and players are all about winning. An organization will go to great lengths to keep their best players healthy and ready to compete for a championship. One of the hottest terms in sports currently is “load management.” All that is, is a fancy word for “rest.”
Load management usually occurs when a team plays back-to-back games. Superstar players such as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo have all been subject to load management from time to time, as their teams want them to be healthy for postseason play.
Kawhi Leonard, now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, was the original perpetrator for this new method. All last season, while a member of the Toronto Raptors, Leonard was held out of games, missing 22 regular season matchups thanks to load management.
This method paid off for the Raptors in the long run, as Leonard led the long-suffering franchise to their first NBA championship on an epic and unforeseen run. Leonard was named finals MVP and cemented his name in Canadian sports lore. Did load management help bring the Raptors a much-needed title?
Load management has been used in the past, but in much smaller doses and typically just to limit minutes inside a game. Today, it’s much more than simply resting players for games or limiting minutes.
Players take time off working out, traveling, practicing and attending team meetings. The idea behind this is to remove the players from stress related situations, both physically and mentally, to create a more relaxing environment that keeps the players feeling rested and at their peak.
Greg Popovich, one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time, was a well-documented user of load management. It just wasn’t yet called that. Every week, the Spurs, coached by Popovich, would have his older players such as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all sit out of games. They would appear on the injury report as “DNP-Rest.”
The league, however, did not take kindly to Popovich’s ways. They said that he could no longer do such a thing due to it impacting attendance of Spurs games. The league decreed that to rest players, a certain amount of notice would have to be given so the fans would know whether their favorite stars were participating in the game. Thus, load management was born.
Load management has been a serious topic of debate since its inception. Fans get angry when the best player on their favorite team is sitting despite being healthy and they end up losing because of it. Fans want to see their team win and believe that this is counterproductive towards that goal. More importantly, fans pay ridiculous amounts of money to see games in person, and they feel gipped when they’re not getting to see the best product on the court each and every night.
Television and streaming services are impacted just as much as those of us who attend games. People pay extraordinary amounts of money to be able to watch their teams play all around the country from the comfort of their own homes. Streaming services such as NBA League Pass lose large amounts of viewers when stars sit.
Doc Rivers, the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, says Leonard has never felt better, and gives all the credit to load management. “He feels great, but he feels great because of what we’ve been doing, you know. We’re just going to continue to do it. There’s no concern here. But we want to make sure. I think Kawhi made a statement that he’s never felt better. It’s our job to make sure he stays that way. That’s important.”