The resting of players has become an issue in the NBA, with valid arguments coming from both sides. Portland head coach Terry Stotts doesn’t know what the solution is, but he believes it’s coming – and sooner rather than later.
“I think it’s a difficult topic,” Stotts said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Really, the issue has really been surrounded by three or four of five teams with a handful of marquee players. Most of us can’t afford to rest our best players. Most of us are trying to get every win that we can. It comes down to just a few teams who are resting players because they have championship aspirations, and sometimes there are older players. For us, we have the youngest team in the league. We don’t have a player that’s older than 28. All our guys want to play, so it really hasn’t been an issue for us.”
But it is an issue for NBA executives. Stott expects this problem to be addressed this summer.
“I don’t know what the answer is because I think there are valid points on both sides,” Stotts said. “I think the coaches and the franchises are doing what they think is in the best interest of their team and their players. Obviously there’s the business aspect, especially when you have a televised game, you have the fan base, the league office. So there are a lot of very valid points, and I don’t know what the solution is. I just know that the times have changed.”
John Stockton, for example, played 82 games in 16 of his 19 seasons. Karl Malone played 80+ games in 17 of his 19 seasons.
“It was a different time,” said Stotts, 59. “I’m not saying that was right or wrong; it’s just different. I do think that they need to come up with some type of solution that meets everybody’s needs.”
Stotts was asked if he would be offended if, say, the Cavaliers sat LeBron James for a game in Portland.
“I’d probably say, ‘Yeah, get your rest LeBron,’” Stotts said, laughing. “I would not take it personally. Like I said, I think teams do what’s in the best interest of their franchise, regardless of their opponents. Especially a team like Cleveland, who’s been to the Finals two straight years, they’re doing what they think they need to do to win a championship, and I would not take it personally because it wouldn’t be about me or my team. It would be more about them.”
It’s also more about sports science, which the Trail Blazers have embraced. The franchise tests players for various health metrics, which can influences Stotts decision-making as a coach.
“I listen to what they say,” he said. “Rest has certainly become a very important issue for us. We don’t rest our players in games, but a day like today, we’re not going to do very much with the players who played last night. We’ve got a back-to-back coming up. . . . You can be old-school, but I think it is in the best interest of the athlete – and with all the science and what we have, I think it is important to recognize that. But at the same time as a coach, I think the mental aspect of it, just fighting through some adversity, fighting through some pain, pushing yourself is part of being a professional athlete. To be honest, I think the athletes appreciate that. I think the athletes like to push themselves and see what they can do. So there is a little yin and yang that goes on with that.”
Portland (33-38) trails Denver (34-37) by one game for the final playoff spot in the West. The Trail Blazers still have a shot at the postseason but must play better defense down the stretch. They are allowing 109.5 points per game, which ranks 26th in the NBA.
“I think part of it is personnel, I think part of it is attention to detail – I think a lot of it is attention to detail,” Stotts said. “I think defense is a talent. I think there are players who are better defensively than others, just like offense is a talent. But I also believe that the best defensive players are usually experienced players, and they usually are able to anticipate things ahead of time. If you look at the best defensive teams in the league, generally they’re more experienced teams, so I do think it takes time to learn it and become better at it. . . . We’ve been inconsistent, and to be honest, that’s been our biggest challenge all year – whether it’s offensively or defensively or playing with a lead – is playing consistently.”