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Throughout the last decade, NBA fans at home and in-person have heard the phrase “load management” ad nauseam, but a long overdue change appears to be on the way.
As more marquee players are now injured, sitting out due to “soreness”, or taking preventative measures recommended by team personnel, the NBA is collectively looking within to find a viable solution.
That solution will likely be included in the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement with the hope of getting star players to play more games, reports Shams Charania at The Athletic.
Top league and players union officials held a Competition Committee meeting on Friday to discuss star players playing in more games, and staying healthy enough to compete on a night-to-night basis.
To incentivize the proposal, both sides are reportedly in agreement on tying major awards to games played over the course of the season, sources said. The two sides are also working to agree on a new number of required games, according to the report.
The NBA already has a rule in place that players must appear in at least 58 games to be eligible for statistical honors such as the scoring title and assists leader.
How much different voters weigh games played varies, but it already is a factor and a player who gets on the court for fewer than 60 games has a much tougher time winning any postseason award than someone who plays more than that.
For instance, in 2021, Nikola Jokic beat out Joel Embiid for MVP partly because he played in 72 games to Embiid’s 51 (only playing 31 games another season cost Embiid Rookie of the Year).
Kawhi Leonard and The Los Angeles Clippers are infamous for load management
According to Sports Illustrated, this is a change that has been brought up in recent months, as the league continues to search for ways to address its most recurring issue.
Now a Los Angeles Clipper, Kawhi Leonard began his career in 2011 with the San Antonio Spurs where he, along with other high-performing players were encouraged by head coach Gregg Poppovich to take games off.
Since entering the NBA, Kawhi Leonard has missed over 300 regular season games. For more than a decade, he has averaged only 48 games played per season during the 82 game schedule.
How did load management become a league-wide problem?
CJ McCollum (President of the National Basketball Players Association) and Chris Paul (former President) pointed out in the negotiations Friday, the team and their medical staff — driven by analytics and monitoring — often sit players.
Yahoo! Sports reports the ultimate aim is to keep players healthy, especially for the playoffs, but that has drawn mixed results, in particular from regular season customers spending the marked-up price of admission without the superstar player they paid to see.
Assuming there is an agreement on a new stipulation in the new collective bargaining agreement, this would create a new minimum games threshold for awards such as Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Whether it is a certain amount of games or minutes played, it does appear that a change is coming in order to incentivize players to play the full 82-game season, assuming they are not seriously injured.