A fan attending Monday's game between the Lakers and Nets made it clear that he was upset with load management days. Jan 30, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forwards Anthony Davis (3) and LeBron James (6) watch from the bench during the second quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Fans who bought tickets for Monday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, thinking that it would be a matchup of all-time legends Kevin Durant and LeBron James were sorely disappointed.

Durant, who last played on January 8, remains sidelined with an MCL sprain. His absence in Monday’s game meant that 11 straight games between LeBron’s and Durant’s teams took place with one of them sidelined. Both played on Christmas Day, 2018, the first matchup between LeBron’s Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. But at least one of the pair missed the subsequent three games that season and every game between the Lakers and Nets since Durant went to Brooklyn.

Monday’s game, though, went beyond just those two megastars being sidelined. Ben Simmons missed his second-straight game with an injury. James and teammate Anthony Davis, meanwhile, were held out due to load management, with the Lakers playing on Tuesday, as well. One fan made it known that he was not happy.

Erik Slater, who covers the Nets for Clutch Points, took a photo of a sign left by a fan. The sign read “load mgmt = rip off” and “Shorten the season” with photos of James and Davis between the two messages.

Fans seemed generally in support of the idea.

Load management has become a major talking point in the NBA community. ESPN’s Richard Jefferson was recently highly critical of healthy players taking days off, recalling his time as a fan seeing David Robinson play after his family saved up to get him a ticket as a Christmas present. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently advocated for a shorter season, expressing sympathy for paying fans when the Warriors recently held their stars out of a road game.

There are two issues with shortening the season.

The less severe issue is that it wouldn’t guarantee that load management games still wouldn’t exist. The Lakers are holding LeBron out of games because they know that their only chance of winning a title this year (faint, though it may be given that they aren’t even in play-in-game position) rests on him being 100%. Even if this year is a wash, Los Angeles wants to preserve James for next year. All teams do with their stars. A 72-game season wouldn’t change that.

That, though, could be overcome by punishing teams for resting healthy players. The NBA could do something like that now. But it would be a little easier to do with a shorter season, given that it’s being called for by prominent figures.

The bigger issue is money. Current contracts are signed for 82-game seasons. That’s not just player contracts, but also television contracts. Shortening the season would mean either maintaining the 82-game rates or prorating them. Either solution would generate a massive fight.

Load management is an issue and it’s undeniable that fans are getting ripped off. But the most obvious solution to the problem won’t be easily implemented.

[Erik Slater on Twitter]

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