THE National Basketball Association (NBA) plans to give greater leeway to teams this season when it comes to resting players in non-nationally televised games, according to a report from ESPN.

A league memo obtained by the network said the relaxed restrictions would apply to teams taking part in back-to-back games, as well as other scenarios “to rest a key veteran player who played a substantial role on a team that advanced deep into the 2020 Playoffs, or to rest a player who is still returning to full strength after recovering from COVID-19.”

Load management has been a touchy subject in the NBA for the past few years, but this year is unusual in that stars such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jimmy Butler competed in the NBA Finals until mid-October. The league is set to restart before Christmas, marking the shortest offseason in its history.

James said this week that he and the Lakers will be careful with his workload in the early part of the regular season.

“I’ve always listened to my coaches,” James said last season. “We had the same thing last year. We’re going to be as smart as we can be on… making sure that my body, on making sure that I’m ready to go.

“Obviously, every game matters, but we’re competing for something that’s high. We don’t ever want to short-change our stuff. For me personally, that’s a fine line with me, but understanding that it’s a shortened season. I think it’s 71 days that the offseason is going to be, the shortest [offseason] for any professional sport ever.

“We’re very conscientious about what we’re going to do going forward, as far as me personally.”

The league memo states that qualifying factors for “unusual circumstances” include the age, injury history, COVID-19 recovery, season, and career workload of a particular player. Schedule concerns also could play a role, such as how much a team has recently played and how many consecutive road games it has endured.

The memo reinforced rules involving nationally televised games, emphasizing teams that rest healthy players could be fined $100,000 or more. — Reuters