The Golden State Warriors might have gotten away with a potentially harmful Saturday night for the NBA, potentially escaping the situation without a fine. Head coach Steve Kerr‘s decision to sit out four of his best players hindered not only general attendance at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, but took a massive hit in TV ratings as the lone featured matchup to be broadcasted on ABC.
Following Friday’s 103-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kerr announced his plans to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. The man at the helm explained that the grueling East Coast road trip they had been on within the past two weeks had put a toll on his players’ bodies, especially since they played extra minutes to make up for the absence of their leading scorer, Kevin Durant.
Former commissioner David Stern infamously fined the San Antonio Spurs in 2012 for sitting their main cogs in a game against a LeBron James-led Miami Heat, a game that actually ended up being a quite remarkable display of Gregg Popovich‘s bench mastery.
The main difference between that incident and this one is that the Golden State was transparent about the plans to rest players, whereas San Antonio made a late announcement and sent the players home without notifying the league, causing a $250,000 penalty for the franchise.
The Spurs had issues of their own coming into Saturday’s game, forced to sit out star forward Kawhi Leonard, who is following a concussion protocol, and a last-minute heart complication to LaMarcus Aldridge, sidelining him indefinitely. The Spurs were also without guards Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray, making the collective total of 3-of-10 available starters playing on Saturday night.
“I’m sympathetic to fans who turn out — whether they buy tickets to games or watching games on television and don’t see their favorite player on the floor,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said earlier in the year.
“We also have to be realistic that the science has gotten to the point where there is that direct correlation that we’re aware of between fatigue and injuries. And as tough as it is on our fans to miss one of their favorite players for a game, it’s far better than having them get injured and be out for long periods of time. So we’re always still looking to strike that right balance.”
The Warriors have been only one of a few teams to endure a tough stretch of games, an issue that has backfired on the league with coaches bringing the issue to the forefront.
“I would say my personal view is I would rather not engage in discussions with coaches and GMs on playing time,” Silver said previously. “I think that’s a core responsibility of the team and I think it’s a very slippery slope for the league office to start getting in the business of telling a coach or team what minutes a player should play.”