OK, it’s time for Devil’s Advocate corner: The NBA’s stance on load management is a good thing, but not for the dumbass reasons Joe Dumars presented Wednesday. If you missed it, the executive vice president of basketball operations said there’s no proof that load management prevents injuries. Maybe, maybe not, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the tactic — even more than advances in science and medical care — is responsible for guys playing longer, and at a higher level, than ever.
I mean it sounds great in theory, right? We’re in year 21 of LeBron James, year 16 of Kevin Durant, and both can still reach a pretty high level. While they might be outliers, with extended careers in any era, is it a good thing for stars to play 15-plus seasons? (Cut to Adam Silver emphatically nodding.)
Since you can probably guess where I’m going with this, and I can confirm that this is a totally insane take, allow me to simply say, I don’t think so. If every NBA hooper showed up to training camp with an 82-game mindset like Dumars and the NBA would like them to do, the average career length would look a lot like it used to.
Think about Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas, Patrick Ewing, and other players whose careers or primes came to an end because of injuries amassed season after grueling season. One day they were just done, and the league and fans had to pivot to fresh blood, fresh angles, and other, usually younger, players.
Yes, the next big star can turn out to be a false prophet, but “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” — Thomas Jefferson
— Brigadier General Francis Xavier Hummel
I’m not sure whether quoting the antagonist from The Rock helps or hurts my argument, so let me explain. You know how not all wildfires are a bad thing? Before climate change turned the annual fire season into a spectacle you could see from space, blazes were a natural way for the environment to regenerate the earth, and replenish the soil, allowing new growth and animals to thrive.
Well, if there’s no room in the headlines for new players to take hold, and flourish because all of the oxygen is going on 10 to 15 Redwoods, how is the league supposed to move forward? These kinds of lingering dynasties are fun, yet in this era of Ringzzz Culture, the only way for a newcomer to earn validation is by winning a championship.
Since the turn of the century, some form of the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, or LeBron have won 17 of a possible 24 titles. Again, a few of the stars on those teams could’ve had prolonged careers in any era, but outside of possibly Kobe Bryant, all utilized load management.
So I ask you: How are young players supposed to reach the pinnacle of the sport — and their popularity — if they have to face healthy, rested, superstar-laden teams that have been sandbagging all season? Unless an injury happens, guys have to be at the level of Nikola Jokic, or Giannis Antetokuonmpo to stand a chance.
The NBA has been dominated by dynasties throughout its history, and very few stars are good enough to snag an outlier. At the same time, Michael Jordan didn’t have to beat the Pistons for 15 years. Bird and Magic Johnson only met three times in the Finals in the ’80s; LeBron and Curry did it four times in four years. The only thing that can fell current super teams, buoyed by players waiting until May to be taken out of the box, is generational greatness, or the injury bug.
Seeing as broken bones and torn ligaments are a lot more plentiful than league MVPs, availability is the great equalizer. Enduring a full season, every season leaves health up to chance, and risks calamity upending the status quo, but wouldn’t that be more fun?
Original source here
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