For the second week in a row a team rested star players during Saturday night’s prime-time ABC game, as the Cavs sat out their big three of LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love in a 108-78 loss to the Clippers.
That happened a week after the Warriors rested three key players during that same national ABC window, and according to Cavs GM David Griffin, the league was not pleased.
Cleveland general manager David Griffin told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that the league office called him shortly after the team announced its decision Saturday.
“Yeah, they were not happy,” Griffin said.
Joining the league in voicing their displeasure with the Cavs decision? A ton of fans on Twitter and elsewhere.
A small sampling:
— Mike S Will (@mike_S_will) March 19, 2017
So Bron, Kyrie, Love and Korver will sit out the nationally televised game tonight vs Clippers but play vs the Lakers tomorrow ? wack!
— D C (@DKyle24) March 19, 2017
When do we all go crazy about the Cavs robbing fans on a nationally televised game?
— Ann Killion (@annkillion) March 18, 2017
Please don't rest starters on nationally televised games, was waiting all week for this game and Lebron, etc. Is sitting out @NBA ?
— ChiefMcFly (@ChiefMcFly) March 19, 2017
Though there was at least one silver lining:
do ppl complaining abt Cavs resting their starters 2nite not realize we bout to get a JR Smith mixtape game yall should be saying THANK YOU
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) March 19, 2017
The Cavs had some decent reasoning, however. They were about to play a back-to-back in Los Angeles, and unlike the Warriors, two of the three rested players have had recent injury concerns. And as Griffin notes, he isn’t exactly incentivized to play everyone all the time.
But the GM also said it isn’t his job to appease the league and its television partners (which include ESPN).
“Yeah, and they’re paying me to win a championship,” he told Shelburne. “I’m not overly concerned about the perception of it. We literally had one guy rest tonight, and everybody else was reasonably injured, so I don’t feel like we did anything terribly egregious.”
And that’s actually a very reasonable point! LeBron was the healthy player who sat for the Cavs, which Tyronn Lue explained by saying he didn’t want LeBron to have to play more minutes while trying to carry a limited roster during a fairly meaningless game.
In fact, the only true meaning assigned to the game was the national window. And that’s going to keep happening; the NBA regular season is so long, with the playoffs so disproportionately important (and relatively easy to make, if you’re a good team) that this is going to keep happening unless something changes.
And the league office can make all the angry phone calls it wants, but all a contending team resting players has to do to win the argument is point to any of the franchises tanking across the league.
It’s unfortunate for fans who want to watch fun regular season games, and more unfortunate for the league’s broadcast partners, but with the current system it’s only going to continue to happen.