Load management has become one of the more widely discussed topics in NBA circles over the last decade. There are those like the San Antonio Spurs and the LA Clippers who practice it regularly, and there are those like the Houston Rockets who were one of the last teams to employ the strategy.
Many believed that former Rockets superstar James Harden frequently ran out of gas during the postseason as a result of Harden being overused and overworked during the regular season. Harden refused to load manage, while other superstars such as Kawhi Leonard, who has become the poster child of load management, took no issue with it.
The Rockets took a load management approach with Russell Westbrook during the 2019-20 season, as he sat out during back-to-backs more often than not. The challenge with load management is that it short-changes the fans, who have oftentimes spent their hard-earned money in hopes of being able to observe one of the superstars in the league, only to find out on game day that said player was resting.
Former Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy calls on players to be more considerate of fans
On Monday, former Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy called on the players to be more considerate of the fans, as Van Gundy was very transparent about the need to put an end to load management on Sirius XM's NBA radio.
“The league office has come more than halfway with any concerns the players may have had towards their health. And I think it’s imperative that the players meet the good will of the league office and try to reciprocate the scheduling components.
No 4-in-5 nights, less back-to-backs, sometimes playing in the same city on two consecutive games to take away another flight. Teams have gone out of their way to limit practice more, limit shootarounds more.
Fans will not appreciate the bait-and-switch where we advertise player A, B, and C but on that given night player D, E, and F are the ones playing. Our players have to recognize how far Adam Silver has gone and how much he’s on their side.
There has never been a player’s commissioner like Adam Silver. He is totally in line with what they want, and I think they need to reciprocate with more and more games.”
Van Gundy's argument is validated by the 2021-22 NBA schedule, which was released on Friday, as the average distance of travel is 43,000 miles across the league, which is the lowest its ever been. In addition, times are much different than the older era of the NBA, where there used to be 27 back-to-back games and extended travel from one coast to the next.
And considering how several of the league's top players are hauling in an average of $40 million annually (Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James), it's easy to understand why Van Gundy would want the players to be considerate of the fans, who oftentimes are blue-collar and represent the working class.