The NBA’s seen a meteoric rise in DNP-Rests in the past couple seasons from star players such as LeBron James and Tim Duncan. Sitting a team’s most productive player may seem like a middle finger to fans paying exorbitant dollar amounts to see them, but it’s benefits are unquestioned.
In a piece from Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com, he presents data from Masaru Teramoto, a University of Utah School of Medicine assistant professor, who combed through NBA injury data, finding players participating in back-to-backs on the road are 3.5 times more likely to suffer an injury. The data may appear insignificant, but as Haberstroh notes, two-thirds of every back-to-back are on the road.
Since 2012-13, sitting healthy players has become a useful tactic in preserving players health, rising 668 percent according to Haberstroh. Considering the toll playing 35+ minutes a night, 82 times a season plus the playoffs can take on a body, the strategy seems to be effective. As the playoffs approach, resting has spiked in the league.
The Cavaliers sat James multiple games in 2015-16 despite backlash from fans. James told ESPN protecting players season-long health is the priority.
“The minutes don’t mean anything … it’s just the games,” James said then. “We want to protect the prize, and the prize is the players.”
Sure, the fan experience suffers, as many pay top dollar to see James, Russell Westbrook, or Kahwi Leonard, only to instead watch them sit on the bench in their street clothes. But, preserving the long-term health come playoff time is a justifiable sacrifice to missing a game here and there. With back-to-backs being so brutal, unless the season is shortened, rest is a reasonable compromise.