LOS ANGELES – By noontime Saturday, the L.A. Clippers had the biggest home matchup of the year and what was arguably the hottest ticket in town. The Cleveland Cavaliers were set to play at Staples Center against the Clippers, the first game of a back-to-back set that would see them play against the Lakers in the same arena the following night.
However, everything changed once Cavs’ head coach Tyronn Lue announced that he would be sitting out LeBron James to rest while Kyrie Irving (knee tightness) and Kevin Love (knee surgery) also wouldn’t play as they come back from injuries. Fans who paid top-dollar for the Clippers game got to witness a 30-point blowout and fans donning Wine and Gold jerseys throughout the arena were left devastated.
After the game, Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers addressed that resting of stars during the season is a significant issue, especially for marquee matchups like this one.
“I do know one thing, and I said it the other night: I think that we have to protect the national games,” said Rivers. “I think we can. I think it’s going to be hard, but I do think we can do it.”
Last Saturday, the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs were set to play a huge game with drastic playoff implications. Instead of seeing the top players on the top two teams, fans in San Antonio saw a game without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tony Parker. The Spurs defeated the Warriors handily 107-85, but at least Steve Kerr made the announcement the night prior following a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Coach Lue made his announcement just two hours before tipoff, following further evaluations of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
“I hate it for the fans,” Rivers admitted. “I really do. I hate it, but I do it. We all do it. I mean, it’s bad. And I did it the other night in Denver. There are people with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan jerseys all over the place.”
“We have to protect our product and I don’t have the solution. It is hard… Like, it is impossible if you knew what went into scheduling, but the look of back-to-back ABC national games is not good.”
We’ve seen a slew of stars go down due to injuries, namely the Warriors’ Kevin Durant and Cleveland’s Kevin Love, two teams who came into the season as almost a lock for the NBA Finals and have been extra cautious with injuries. There’s no easy answer for whether or not to rest players, but something does have to be done so fans don’t pay their hard-earned money to see second-string players. Rivers says a change has to be made to the schedule in order to allow nationally televised games to live up to their hype.
“ABC’s games used to be in the afternoon and so they were protected because if you’d play in the afternoon, you don’t play the day before. Now with these games on a Saturday night, which allows the scheduling guys to play the night before. So I think that we have to treat those games like they’re afternoon games and you don’t play the night before and you don’t play the next night after.”