But don't fret, NBA fans. We're here to fix all that — with five easy solutions to the Association's resting problem.
Play MLB-style "series" during the regular season
More than the actual in-game action, travel is the single biggest cause for NBA players resting. We as a society have realized the physioloigical toll of constant flights, jet lag, lack of rest, and everything else that comes with zipping across the country on a nightly basis.
One easy fix: when a team visits an opponent twice during the season, as with division rivals, play both of those games over the course of two or three days, like MLB does. I get that the idea is to spread out the dates over the season to give fans multiple opportunities to see the visiting team, but the NBA is the only major form of entertainment that takes this approach.
You don't see a major band booking a three-night gig in a city with one night in June, one in November and one the following March. That's a logistical nightmare. So why does the NBA insist on continuing this tradition?
Have regular-season matchups determine home-court advantage in the playoffs
This is an idea that's floated around Twitter for a couple weeks now, and it's my absolute favorite.
The concept is simple. You'd still seed all eight playoff teams according to their regular-season record. When it comes time to determine home-court advatange in each individual series, though, you'd look at the record between the two teams during the season.
Even the likes of Gregg Popovich and LeBron James couldn't pretend home-court advantage is meaningless if all it takes to clinch the upper-hand is a couple of wins during the regular season.
Players might still rest in this scenario, but they wouldn't sit out the highest of high-profile matchups. Really, that's the problem we're trying to solve here.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Make each playoff series (except the Finals) best-of-five, not best-of-seven
As LeBron James and his six straight Finals appearances will tell you, every game matters in the long haul. Cutting just a few cumulative contests off of the playoff careers of guys like LeBron, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the rest of the NBA's superstars could go a long way toward ensuring they're rested heading into the next season — and it could give us even more playoff upsets.
That's never a bad thing.
Cut the number of games in the regular season
It's both the fix the NBA won't embrace and the only one that really matters.
Eighty-two games is just too many, especially when you try to squeeze them into the current six-month window. If the NBA is at all serious about reducing the wear and tear on its players, Adam Silver & Co. need to look at cutting the season down to about 60 games a year.
Beyond the rest factor, reducing the number of games could have a positive impact on the bottom line. The NFL, after all, is the king of sports with just a 16-game regular season. Scarcity creates demand; having teams play just twice a week would make the NBA regular season appointment viewing.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Go back to the hand-checking, no-zone-defense rules
I defy you to watch the first 46 minutes of an NBA game from the 1980s without falling asleep.
Seriously. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and the rest of the Association's stars were fantastic, but the on-court product was actually kind of boring. A team's primary offensive player would catch the ball in the post. Everyone else would stand around. Then, they'd stand around some more. Finally, they'd ... continue to stand there.
Don't get me wrong — sometimes a double-team would come, and then there would be a pass or two. Huzzah!
Otherwise, it was one-on-one basketball; may the best man win on behalf of his team. I mean, we marveled at the fact that the Utah Jazz were a pick-and-roll-oriented team because they were the only squad actually playing team basketball. (Well, them and the Showtime Lakers.)
The NBA's elimination of hand-checking and allowance of zone defense forced teams to spread the court and run complicated offenses to try to best the increasingly-sophisticated defenses that came about in the mid-00s. While I don't have the data in front of me, I'd estimate today's players cover 50 percent more ground during the course of a game than their predecessors, if not more.
That's why today's players need to rest more than their predecessors: the stars of yesteryear had ample opportunity to take a breather in the middle of the game. Today's stars don't have that luxury.