The Cavaliers announced Tuesday night that LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving will not be making the trip to Memphis this evening. Given that it is the only time the Cavs are playing there this season — unless both teams make the Finals — this is a really shitty situation for Grizzlies fans, who won’t get to watch their team compete on their home court against a legitimate lineup from the defending champs.
We’ve all been over this a thousand times, about how back-to-backs in the NBA are a slog for the players. When all we care about in sports debates is how many rings superstars have earned, it’s advantageous to get as much rest as you can before the playoffs. The Cavs already rendered the regular season entirely meaningless last year, when they fired David Blatt in late January and won the championship in June.
What the Cavs are doing right now, and the Spurs have done for years and years, is sending a clear signal to NBA fans that you should not buy tickets to games in advance, especially if you don’t live in a marquee city like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or Miami. The NBA has already taken steps to diminish back-to-backs and the dreaded four-games-in-five-nights, but they need to start the season earlier to eliminate even more of them.
Beyond that, I don’t even know what the NBA can do. Adam Silver has said that if he made rules about resting healthy players, doctor’s notes would just pop up. He’s absolutely right. Would giving better playoff seeds five home games in a seven-game series be too extreme? Probably.
There has to be some sort of code of honor, though. Silver has said that he’d prefer teams rest their players at home. The Cavs hosted the Grizzlies last night, and easily could have staggered the resting.
LeBron traveled to New York on Monday between home games to get feted for SI’s Sportsperson of the Year Award, and gives zero shits that a fanbase — a pretty good one — can’t see him play their team live this year:
Nominally, this is a decision that was made by Tyronn Lue, but everyone with a brain knows that LeBron’s input was not only considered, but probably the deciding factor. As Jason Lloyd noted, the Grizzlies sat Marc Gasol last night in Cleveland; while it’s not the same in the sense that opposing fans probably aren’t lighting up the box office to see him, he is their best player, and coach David Fizdale admitted his rest had been “marked on the calendar for awhile.”
On one hand, if you’re a Grizzlies fan you’re probably getting a W tonight. Memphis is currently seeded fifth in the Western Conference, and would like a series with home court advantage. But, that’s a small consolation prize if you’re the breadwinner in a family of four, circled this date on your calendar months ago, paid $150/ticket, and now don’t get to see an all-time player or even his star teammates.
At some point, NBA fans will collectively learn their lesson. Why buy tickets in advance?
UPDATE: Chris Russo went berserk about this story; make sure to stick around to the end of the rant for a loud recounting of how many games Michael Jordan played per year: