The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs played on ESPN on Saturday night in name only. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala sat for the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker sat for the Spurs. The teams made the NBA and Lil John guilty of false advertising.
ESPN paid $2.6 billion for their NBA rights this season as part of a $24 billion deal between the NBA, ESPN and Turner through the ’24-’25 season. Presumably, during negotiations and scheduling they were picturing Stephen Curry playing on Saturday. Instead, they got a healthy Curry watch Patrick McCaw amass 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in a game-high 42 minutes. Did I mention he was 0-12 from the field? ESPN probably will.
People should be pissed. Anyone who bought a ticket to the game or paid for the rights to broadcast it had every right to be beside themselves on Saturday evening. Steve Kerr said he kind of felt bad, but insists that coaches are handcuffed because of the intense schedule. This piece from Tom Haberstroh on ESPN points out that the Warriors have an even more strenuous schedule than other teams because of their high number of games on national television and geography:
The Warriors were scheduled an NBA-high 28 games on national TV this season and were tied for most last season at 25. Travel is closely linked to national TV games. If you compare total mileage and games on national TV this season, there is a noticeable correlation. Each of the top seven travel-heavy teams in total mileage have an above-average number of national TV games. (Teams like Golden State, Houston, LA Clippers and Oklahoma City). Of the bottom 10 teams in mileage, only Cleveland and Chicago have more TV games than the average team. But Cleveland and Chicago are located in the heart of America, where trips are naturally shorter.
This presents a no-win situation for coaches. Sit the stars, catch heat from fans. Play stars, have a greater likelihood of injury that could shorten a player’s career and jeopardize team’s title chances.
Solid points, but why did everyone have to sit the same night? The Warriors played three road back-to-backs in the last two weeks. Kevin Durant was injured during the second game of the first back-to-back in Washington. Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green and Iguodala all played in both games. Why didn’t one or two of them sit either game? Curry, Thompson, Green and Iguodala all played both games in their second road back-to-back in New York and Atlanta. Why didn’t anyone rest in any of those games?
Steve Kerr doesn’t think about schedules at all? He’s just plays guys until they start to look tired? And it’s not just the Warriors. The Cavaliers left LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving home for the second night of a back-to-back in December. The Spurs have done it for years.
So why can’t teams have guys take turns resting? Isn’t mapping out rest days a few weeks in advance the obvious answer to eliminate games like Saturday’s? Teams have months to look at schedules and map out potential rest days. Sure, you can’t plan for something like Kevin Durant’s injury, but that changes everything anyway. You’ve got a bunch of All-Stars — let them take turns sitting. Unless it’s more than a coincidence that this kind of thing only seems to happen during marquee match-ups.