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SI:AM | The NBA’s Latest Idea to Discourage Load Management

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I can’t believe the astonishing six-year run of the Braves.

In today’s SI:AM:

​​New NBA participation rules

Achilles experts on Rodgers’s injury

McNabb on Hurts and Philly’s Black QBs

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Maybe 82 games is just too many

The NBA is doing its best to make “load management” a thing of the past. Well, maybe not doing its best, but it does have an idea to curb the practice.

The league announced a new set of rules yesterday designed to prevent teams from resting multiple marquee players at once. The rules are somewhat complex, but the gist of it is this: Teams are not allowed to bench healthy star players for big games nor have two healthy star players sit for the same game. (There are exceptions based on age and legitimate injuries.)

There is a particular focus under the new policy on making big-name players available for games that are being broadcast on national television or that are part of the league’s new in-season tournament. Teams are not allowed to rest healthy players for such games, and doing so will result in an investigation. If teams are found to have violated the policy, they face fines of increasing amounts ($100,000 for a first violation, $250,000 for the second and $1 million more than the previous fine amount for each subsequent violation). The NBA says it will trigger an investigation if it sees a pattern of one-game absences for road games. The league wants players’ rest to be balanced between home and road games, with a preference for players sitting out home games. (You can see the full policy here.)

The league defines a “star” as someone who has made an All-Star or All-NBA team in the past three years. Under that definition, there are 15 teams in the league that have more than one “star” player and will be subject to the new restrictions on resting multiple stars, but players can be added to the list of stars after that season’s All-Star Game. For example, if Jamal Murray is selected to the All-Star team this season, the Nuggets would not be allowed to sit him and Nikola Jokić on the same night after the All-Star break.

The NBA previously declared that players who play fewer than 65 games in a season will not be eligible for postseason awards, and by enacting these new rules, the league is dictating when players can be rested.

But if the NBA wants players to play a larger percentage of regular-season games, it’s ignoring the most obvious solution: shorten the season, which is what Chris Herring argues the league and the players should entertain. The new set of rules does nothing to address the root cause of the load management issue. Playing 82 games in six months while traveling all around the country is a grueling task, especially when squeezing some games to be played back-to-back.

Players sitting out isn’t the only problem with the long schedule. Anybody who’s watched the NBA can tell you that the length of the season leads to a lack of intensity as players attempt to conserve their energy. Cutting games from the season would give players more opportunities to rest without skipping games and make each game matter more, leading to players giving their all more often. There would be downsides, of course, primarily the loss of revenue associated with a shorter schedule and how that would decrease salaries, but it’s worth at least considering.

The best of Sports Illustrated

Photo by Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated

  • Stephanie Apstein was in Philadelphia last night, where the Braves clinched their sixth straight NL East title. Now the real work begins.
  • Greg Bishop spoke with Donovan McNabb about Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ long lineage of Black quarterbacks.
  • Mack Brown’s hypocritical criticism of the NCAA worked UNC fans up into a frenzy with frightening results, Pat Forde writes.
  • Here are Michael Fabiano’s Week 2 fantasy football rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defenses.
  • The NBA should take a stronger stance on domestic violence cases in the wake of Kevin Porter Jr.’s arrest, Chris Herring argues.
  • Michael Rosenberg interviewed three Achilles tendon experts to investigate whether Aaron Rodgers’s calf strain contributed to his injury or if the blame should be placed on the MetLife Stadium turf. 
  • Rodgers made his first public comments since his injury in an Instagram post yesterday.

The top five…

… moments in baseball yesterday:

5. A nice sliding play by Blue Jays shortstop Ernie Clement.

4. Randy Arozarena’s homer to the third deck in Minnesota.

3. Yordan Alvarez’s homer with an exit velocity of 117.7 mph, the fastest by any Astros player in the Statcast era.

2. Rangers outfielder Robbie Grossman’s bat drop after a no-doubt home run.

1. The Braves’ celebration after clinching the division.


Decades before their upset win over the Chiefs last week, the Lions played their first NFL game on this day in 1930. But they weren’t known as the Lions. They were the Spartans and called which city home?

  • Lansing, Mich.
  • Portsmouth, Ohio
  • Pottsville, Pa.
  • Racine, Wis.

Yesterday’s SIQ: Charlie O’Brien became the first catcher in MLB history to wear a hockey-style mask on this day in 1996 while playing for which team?

  • White Sox
  • Blue Jays
  • Marlins
  • Cardinals

Answer: Blue Jays. Of course the hockey-style mask originated in Canada. O’Brien had used the traditional mask for his first 10 MLB seasons but eventually realized there must be room for improvement. According to his SABR biography, he “became frustrated with his mask, and the headaches that came from being hit by foul tips.” Inspired by seeing hockey goalies take pucks to the face without much trouble, he began working with an Ontario-based company to design a similar mask to wear behind the plate.

The hockey-style mask gave catchers better peripheral vision while also covering more of their head. MLB dragged its feet in approving O’Brien’s new style of mask, though, so the season was almost over by the time he was finally permitted to wear it in a game. It became popular instantly. Several of O’Brien’s big league colleagues began wearing the mask the following year, and it quickly spread to all levels of the game. The success of his invention surprised even O’Brien.

“Now I watch a girls’ softball game and the catcher’s wearing my mask,” O’Brien told Sports Illustrated in 1999. “Other guys in the majors have started using them. Kids use it because they can paint things on it and look cool. Really, though, I only thought of it so I could have a mask that would absorb more of the ball. Who’d have thought it’d end up like this?”


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