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Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan out vs. Warriors

Gregg Popovich is up to one of his oldest, most-favorite tricks. The San Antonio Spurs announced that star LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan would each sit out of Wednesday’s tilt with the Golden State Warriors on ESPN, flaunting the league’s stated public preference that marquee players suit up for nationally televised games if healthy enough to play.

To be fair to the Spurs, they indeed have some measure of legitimate justification for holding DeRozan out against the two-time defending champions. He missed three of his team’s last four games in January while dealing with nagging knee and ankle soreness, the former of which San Antonio lists as the malady that will sideline him on Wednesday. Still, DeRozan has played in the last three games, and he alluded to managing his body as the reason for recently sitting out:

“Couple of years ago, I’d be playing,” he told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News late last month. “Just trying to be smart. Down the road, I don’t want to have anything nagging or bugging me. I want to be as fresh as possible down the stretch.”

Aldridge’s case is less defensible. “Load management” has become increasingly en vogue as teams’ preferred nomenclature to describe players missing games for rest. The Philadelphia 76ers first popularized it during Joel Embiid’s rookie year, and the Toronto Raptors have made it mainstream this season after acquiring Kawhi Leonard, who missed most of the 2017-18 season with a mysterious quad injury.

It’s tough to blame San Antonio. The Warriors are rarely beaten at home, and the Los Angeles Lakers held LeBron James out of a game at Oracle Arena last weekend under the same guise. If the the Lakers can get away with it, the Spurs can too, right?