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NBA emphasizing ’82-game’ mindset to players

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NBA emphasizing ’82-game’ mindset to players

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Joe Dumars — the league’s executive vice president and head of basketball operations — said the NBA has communicated to its players and teams that “we are really emphasizing that this is an 82-game season” and that the league has data that shows player rest doesn’t necessarily translate to players being healthier.

“I think it was a given conclusion that the data showed that you had to rest players a certain amount and that justified guy sitting out,” said Dumars. “We’ve gotten more data, and it just doesn’t show that resting, sitting guys out correlates with lack of injuries or, or fatigue or anything like that.

“What it does show is guys may be not as efficient on the second night of a back to back. But in terms of injury and things like that, that we thought that it did prior, as we got more data, we realized that’s not really holding up.”

Dumars’ comments come as the NBA is trying to increase participation among its top players heading into this season, and as the league is beginning the process of negotiating its new national broadcast rights deal, with the current one set to expire after the 2024-25 campaign.

The NBA’s new “player participation policy,” which ties players winning the league’s top individual awards – including winning MVP – to playing at least 65 games, includes a fine system for teams that intentionally rest players without any injury issues. The new policy stems from an ongoing trend over the past several years where teams have placed a greater emphasis on resting players in an attempt to avoid injuries, particularly when it comes to playing games on back-to-back nights.

Last year there were several instances, including the last two NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets, sitting virtually their entire starting lineups on one-half of a road back-to-back, depriving fans in those cities from seeing players like Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic play.

Both Dumars and Evan Wasch, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Strategy & Analytics, who was also on the call, admitted that part of the league’s emphasis relates to the ongoing television rights negotiations.

“That’s part of it,” Dumars said. “It’s never really one thing with any of this type of stuff. All of this matters … the reaction to the fans, players, your broadcast partners. Absolutely, that’s a part of it. To pretend that it isn’t would just be dishonest.”

“I also think we don’t need our TV partners to tell us that when teams sit players and players don’t try in an all-star game,” Wasch added. “That makes for worse competition. Right? It’s incredibly obvious to us and ultimately we’re trying to serve fans. Yes, it’s the case that because we’re negotiating TV deals in the next year or two here, it takes on an even greater importance because we’re in the middle of those conversations, but we can self-identify that these were issues that need addressing independent of any outside.”

Throughout the hour-long, wide-ranging call, Dumars returned time and again to the same theme: that the league is pushing to get all of its stakeholders, from the players to executives to coaches, and the overall franchises, on the same page so that the regular season product matters, and needs to be treated with more intensity and effort than it has in previous seasons.

“The culture should be that every player should want to play 82 games,” Dumars said. “Obviously everybody’s not gonna play 82 games. But everyone should wanna play 82 games. That’s the culture that we are trying to re-establish right now.

“The competition committee has signed off on this. The Players Association has signed, they have agreed that this is an 82-game league, and everyone should expect to play 82 games. We’ve discussed this with everybody over the last several months, and everybody agrees that we have to embrace who we are.”

When asked how, specifically, he expects the league to be able to make that happen, he admitted such changes aren’t going to happen overnight.

“I think how you get to the point that we’re at right now, you get here by not addressing it,” Dumars said. “You get here by slippage, by just slowly year after year after year. It doesn’t happen like in one year. Just slowly over time you see all the slippage in missing of games during the regular season, the All-Star game devolving into what it did this past year. None of that happened just like after one year. And so at some point you have to stop the slide. You have to address it.

“I agree that it’s not an easy proposition, but I can tell you for sure that it’s never going to stop, you’re never going to have any impact on it, if you don’t address it.”

Dumars would also like to see better effort from players in the NBA All-Star Game, which like other professional All-Star showcases, have run into similar issues with a lack of intensity in those games.

He said that there used to be a different approach to these games, where players would at least be more intense and focused for portions of the game, and hopes to get the event back to something closer to that, rather than the obvious lack of effort on display in last season in Salt Lake City for the vast majority of the contest.

“I think people expect to see some competition,” Dumars said. “There’s a happy medium somewhere between a heartfelt playoff game and what you saw last year.

“I think it was the lowest rating that we had in the last 10 years on an NBA All-Star game. And, you know, when you have stuff like that and when you have the reaction that fans had and people had around the game and just, just visually sitting there, it matters because it didn’t make the product look good. And so, you know, you’re never in the business of putting your products out there and knowing it’s going to look bad and accepting that.”

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