Pacing players

Anthony L. Cuaycong

Posted on August 10, 2017

Four and a half years ago, the Spurs were fined a whopping $250,000 for opting to hold their stars out for a contest against the Heat. Back then, resting vital cogs wasnít yet the rage, but the seeming dichotomy between serving the best interests of the team, which head coach Gregg Popovich figured he did, and catering to the demands of the fans, which National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern figured he didnít, was already the subject of heated debate in hoops circles. And for all the scientific studies and evidence, however anecdotal, pointing to the profits of pacing players through a long campaign, the league felt compelled to assert existing policy against the same, especially when done contrary to public good.

Fast forward to the end of the 2016-17 regular season, and the tug-of-war was once again thrust to the limelight following the decision of the Cavaliers to keep their Big Three in the sidelines during a nationally televised, and supposedly significant, match with the Clippers. Amid the visible support and criticism, not to mention the closed-door back patting and hand wringing, NBA honchos finally had enough and resolved to limit instances where teams would have little or no time off between matches. The acknowledgment of the need to take action was in and of itself significant; no doubt, the front office was swayed by credible research linking rest to health and, just as important, to productivity. The long and short of the conclusion: The best of the best are able to be at or close to their best when they arenít run down.

And so the NBA moved. First, it lengthened the season by a week. Second, it involved the National Basketball Players Association in crafting the schedule. Third, it protected partners and sponsors by ensuring that set-tos projected to have a large viewership base are scheduled properly. And fourth, it allowed teams to propose changes to the calendar. Needless to say, itís presiding over a work in progress. That said, there can be no doubt of the gravity of its stance, and of the strides it has made in pushing for an agenda that ultimately redounds to the benefit of all its stakeholders. No longer will the likes of LeBron James and Stephen Curry have reason to be in street clothes during the lone instance their respective teams visit a certain city. The days when they sit can be set early and well, and only when deemed necessary.

Simply put, the NBA has wised up, ignoring the noise that invariably highlights the golden oldiesí compunction -- calling, even -- to take to the court for as long as possible. Instead, it has pored through advanced metrics and posited that todayís marquee names arenít soft, but, rather, more suited to the faster-paced, heavier-load modern game. And in acting accordingly, it has placed itself in excellent position to claim favorable footholds in both sports and entertainment.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.