Former NBA players who have long since retired and have no idea how the rigors of the modern game might compare to what it was like when they played sure don’t seem to have a problem ripping current players for accepting the occasional day off.
The latest was Dennis Rodman, who took the low-hanging fruit of comparing former teammate Michael Jordan to LeBron James.
“You know what, LeBron’s doing one thing that I always said that Michael Jordan never did,” Rodman said in a recent interview with CBS Sports. “He never rested. He played every game.”
Rodman is 55 and hasn’t played since the 1999-2000 season. In his last six years in the league, he appeared in more than 64 games exactly once. But sure, he’s entitled to his opinion.
Rodman was preceded by others, including player-turned-analyst Jalen Rose, who said recently that players who rest are “cheating the game.”
It’s a continuation of the classic eternal struggle between generations. But do know this: resting players came into vogue thanks in large part to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich — one of the greatest coaches of all-time and one who spans generations.
When the Spurs were in Minneapolis recently to play the Timberwolves, Popovich laid out the scientific and rational reasons for resting players while also acknowledging the obvious: if you’re a fan, it stinks when players sit out.
But as much as the NBA is in the entertainment business, the bottom line for any team is winning. If giving players a few days off during the regular season keeps them fresher for the playoffs, it seems like a no-brainer.
At some point, that will likely become the accepted conventional wisdom. After all, it’s not like this concept is unique to the NBA.
Major League Baseball players get days off all the time. In particular, catchers get a rest to recover from the physical demands of their position. Starting pitchers typically get four days between outings, and relievers rarely appear on three consecutive days.
NHL goalies routinely get breaks, particularly if their teams play back-to-back games or several games in a compressed stretch of time.
NFL players don’t take games off, but veterans certainly have been known to have easier weeks of practice as the season wears on. If there was more than one football game a week, you can bet there would be players resting.
And in each of those leagues, including the NBA, it is common practice for players to rest after teams have locked into postseason spots, even if there are regular-season games remaining. The Wild’s Mikko Koivu got that treatment Thursday at Colorado, and nobody seems to mind.
If you are reading this right now, there’s a decent chance that you have a far less physically demanding job than “professional athlete,” and there’s also a good chance you have two built-in days of rest, back-to-back, all the time. We call it the weekend.
Ripping NBA players for resting? I call it weak and hope it ends.