The term ‘load management’ has been circulating heavily in NBA news this week. This buzz traces back to Kawhi Leonard, who sat out when the Clippers took on the Milwaukee Bucks last Wednesday. That was the second time Kawhi sat out that week, as he did not play against the Utah Jazz either.
Leonard is not new to load management. While playing in Toronto, he played only 60 regular season games, with the strategy that he would only partake in one game of a back-to-back. This was a result of still working through injuries that lingered from his time in San Antonio.
The NBA fined the Los Angles Clippers organization $50,000 for comments made by Head Coach Doc Rivers concerning Kawhi’s health, saying he “feels great.” The NBA viewed this statement as an inconsistency with Kawhi’s injury status for the Bucks game. The NBA can fine teams up to $100k for resting players for National TV games. Both games Kawhi sat out of were National television games on ESPN.
This scenario has sparked a debate amongst NBA media members and coaches alike regarding load management strategy. Stephen A. Smith stated that Clippers fans would surely not be offended by Kawhi sitting out, assuming a deep playoff run happens in April. Knicks head coach David Fizdale does not plan to put RJ Barrett on a load management schedule. “We gotta get off this load management crap,” said Fizdale.
Here at WizardsXTRA, we have a variety of opinions on NBA load management and how it could potentially apply to the Washington Wizards. Therefore, let the round table commence.
Load Management: Take a stance.
Zach Herriott: Load management is completely necessary for some players. Some guys who can handle a full 82 game schedule, but some simply can’t. Everyone’s body is different and I think it’s ignorant to assume that everyone can handle that many games. We see this across so many sports. Every athlete has different levels of durability.
Ryan Oliver: I don’t see it as a huge deal, especially given the fact that we are really only talking about one player doing it on a major scale. Yes, it sucks for fans that want to see these guys play, and it especially sucks for those that buy tickets to see certain athletes that end up sitting out… However, it comes with the territory of teams competing at the highest level of the league. I do wish though that instead of load management resulting in a player sitting out full games, that teams would limit players minutes instead. For example, instead of completely sitting Kawhi Leonard one of the games during a back-to-back scenario, perhaps, the Clippers could limit Kawhi to 25 minutes per night in both games. That way he suits up for both, while simultaneously limiting the wear and tear. It’s obviously not a perfect solution, but I think it could be a better alternative. But ultimately, I understand the benefits of load management and don’t have much of a problem with it.
Justin Redman: As much as I’d love to watch the best players play every night, it’s always made me deeply uncomfortable to debate how much a person can exert themselves for our entertainment — it’s dehumanizing, in a sense. There are obviously economics at play for the league, but I think that we have to defer to the players (and coaches) to know whether they should suit up on a given night.
Allan Wright: My stance on load management is I don’t mind coaches sitting their key guys out for a game here or there, especially if they’re a contender. Load management is a key reason why the Spurs were able to add years to their title window.
Kawhi Leonard’s rest plan.
Matt Modderno: I just don’t think it was a coincidence that Kawhi sat out against Milwaukee specifically. Maybe the Clippers don’t want to show their hand to a potential finals opponent, I don’t really know. But I am curious if that game had been against Charlotte, would Kawhi have still been on the bench? If your goal is to win a championship and your whole organization is on the same page that resting your best player against the best teams somehow helps you, then, by all means, that’s what you should go ahead and do. Personally, I tend to be happier when my team wins so I hope he sits out against the Wizards as well. I don’t subscribe to the idea that teams should be concerned about whether or not it lets the opposing team’s fans down if they don’t get to see Kawhi in person.
RO: Honestly, I don’t care all that much about it. Kawhi is going to sit out games here and there, we know this and so does the NBA. Why they chose to schedule the Clippers on back-to-back nationally televised games knowing that Kawhi sits out one of basically every back-to-back scenario is beyond me. Especially considering the Clips have basically no other games that week. That’s more on the league’s scheduling than on the Clippers and Kawhi, in my opinion.
Andrew Carter: If Kawhi’s knee is bothering to the point of future concerns, I’m okay with it. I’m also okay he sat out a home game. I’m also, also okay the NBA disclosed why he didn’t play. If you’re claiming load management, let us, the fans know.
MM: Michael Jordan also missed the majority of his second season due to injury. It’s fair to wonder if playing so many minutes and games as a rookie took a toll on his body. He also burned out and retired from basketball to switch sports. If he had less of a workload during his career, maybe he would have had less mental fatigue. Overall, Jordan’s comments just seem like an oversimplification. I think that what worked for the greatest player of all time is not fully translatable to normal human beings and should not be perceived as the standard. Not everyone is built the same way and some bodies are just naturally less durable than others.
RO: I agree with the premise, however, times have changed. You see guys that played in the NBA during the 70s and 80s who can’t walk normally because of the rigors their bodies went through during their time in the league. You can’t blame today’s NBA players for not wanting that for themselves and doing what’s necessary to ensure their long-term health. Medical information has come a long way since 20 years ago when MJ was dominating the league. We know now that playing 82 games and then enduring a lengthy playoff run, year after year, is a recipe for a major injury. While I agree players are being paid to be on the court, it’s not their fault the schedule is a bit too lengthy. Ultimately, players are smart to do what’s in their best interest.
ZH: Getting paid per game is not the correct way to think of it. That’s like implying players are paid an hourly salary or something. Players are paid to help contribute to winning in any way that they can. Tons of players don’t get to play in all 82 games, but they’re paid to ride the bench in the event that they’re needed. Also, Michael Jordan took a year and a half off, which probably extended his basketball playing career quite a bit.
Given John Wall’s nagging list of injuries, do you think he would’ve benefited from the load management strategy?
AC: I don’t think John would have benefited from load management. The team didn’t have capable backups that they could confidently put out on the floor to hold down the fort. In addition, most of John’s injuries are unlucky breaks than playing 42 minutes a game for 82 games.
MM: He absolutely would in the future. He’s always had some nagging injury and he plays pretty recklessly (which I mean in a good way). Whenever he returns the Wizards should be cognizant of that and plan his workload accordingly. When a third or more of your payroll is dedicated to one player you need to be smart and protect your investment. As we have seen in the last two years, you just can’t afford to be without an All-Star caliber point guard (especially when his salary is still on your books).
RO: The answer is probably yes, but the Wizards didn’t have the luxury of sitting him games and expecting to still make the playoffs or at least get a seed they’d prefer. You can’t rest your star when you have no respectable backup and a subpar bench, which has been the case basically Wall’s entire career.
ZH: I think the Wizards did try to manage his injuries as best they could. Many of Wall’s injuries were kind of “freak injuries” that happened due to bad luck, not playing too much. Any time he’s had things flare up, Brooks has not been hesitant to rest him for a night. But load management will be very important for him when he starts coming back into the mix.
Should load management be something the Wizards consider for Bradley Beal as the season progresses?
Brandon Nguyen: The Wizards should consider load management for Bradley Beal. It has worked for players such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, and it could work for Beal as well. Beal is younger than both guys, but you don’t want to what until he shows signs of breaking down before you manage his minutes. The sooner the Wizards can get Beal on a load management plan, the better.
MM: Load management? Maybe not. But capping his minutes, especially in blowouts? Yes. Yes. Yes and yes. Did I mention, yes? Because yes. It would be a huge mistake for the Wizards if Bradley Beal leads the league in minutes played. The Wizards need to be realistic; they are not going to be good this year. Work on building up the young guys and saving Bradley for a heavy workload next year. Playing him 41 minutes in a double-digit loss to Indiana isn’t ideal. That he only played 27 minutes in a blowout to Minnesota is a little better. Once it seems like the outcome of the game is decided, Brooks needs to step in and pull the plug on Brad for that game.
RO: I don’t think I would play him all 82, but I wouldn’t be overly concerned with sitting him out games completely. Management needs to create a plan with Scott Brooks to keep Beal’s minutes to more around 32-25 minutes, instead of the 37-38 minutes Brooks typically goes with. It’s about being smart in what is a developmental year for the Wizards. No point of running Beal into the ground.
JR: I think that Beal is a player that likes to be out there, especially after all the games he missed due to injury earlier in his career. But if it becomes clear that this is a sub-30 win team, it’s not fair to ask him to log 38 minutes for 82 games.
AW: The Wizards should definitely consider load management for Bradley Beal at some point this season. Especially if the team starts losing ground for a playoff spot in the east. It would have Beal rested for the 2020-21 season.
Should the Wizards consider load management for the younger players on the team such as Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr.?
BN: Players coming into the league now play so much basketball from high school leading up to the NBA, as mentioned in an ESPN article published back in the summer. The young core of the Wizards might have grown up playing on AAU and travel teams in addition to playing for their high school teams. That’s a lot of basketball being played even before they step on an NBA court. They might not need to sit out games like Kawhi, but their minutes should be monitored closely.
ZH: Probably not, but it’s also too early to tell. We don’t know how durable these guys are yet. Brown Jr has already shown some signs of not being super durable, so that’s something for the coaching staff to monitor moving forward. But if the guys look good and are healthy, you should just keep playing them. Again, every player is different so it’s not smart to just apply the same rule to every player.
JR: That’s tough because, on one hand, you want to make sure that your young building blocks stay healthy and well-conditioned, but they need to be out there on the court to take the next steps we expect of them. I say let them play for now, but maybe cut down their minutes towards the end of the season to see how guys like Justin Robinson or Admiral Schofield can contribute.