Over the weekend The Cleveland Cavs sat Kevin Love, due to his injury he’s not yet cleared to play back to backs. Kyrie Irving was ruled out as well from a knee ailment suffered in their last game against the Utah Jazz. Last but not least, LeBron James was a healthy scratch and did not play, for rest. To say the league and fans were upset wouldn’t describe the feeling of disgust enough. Fans were pissed they spent money on tickets to see the best player in the league and were unable to do so. Adam Silver and other league officials weren’t happy the Cavs decided to sit their players on the front end of a back to back considering the Saturday night game was a marquee match-up for the league. What looked like a potential finals preview, turned out to be like the previews before the full length movie.
Due to the idea of resting players during the regular season, Cavs management and coaching staff received a fair share of criticism, though LeBron took the most heat. Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson made their feelings known throughout the broadcast that one of the big 3 stars should be playing, and if rest was a big concern then why not rest LeBron the following night against the Los Angeles Lakers and play Love and Kyrie? Or if rest was a necessary precaution, then why have the Cavs been one of the most injury riddled teams this season? You can see listen to their opinions in the video below.
The folks at ABC aren’t too happy about the Cavs sitting LeBron, Kyrie + Love tonight. pic.twitter.com/jeaho7Bjzq
— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) March 19, 2017
While very few may have watched much of that game since there were plenty of other options (NCAA Tournament, Netflix, family time) there were a few things the ESPN on ABC crew failed to mention or take into consideration while laying out an otherwise fair criticism.
1. They mentioned during the game, if their training and coaching staff was trying to protect the players with this rest regimen then why have they been so injured, or why does Tristan Thompson have such an impressive (439) games started streak? Well at the end of the 2015-2016 season, he was started, but only played 4 seconds and was taken out the game to keep the streak alive. When addressing their injury concerns, yes they’ve had just about as many injuries one could have, however, there’s one player they can’t afford to lose and that would be LeBron. you hope not to lose any other important pieces, though I think most would agree losing LeBron would definitely end their chances at a title run, let alone a chance to win it.
2. The Cavs have had limited practice time since the all-star break, have only had more than one day off between games twice. That doesn’t lend itself to more practice time to get the new guys acclimated to the defensive schemes, the offensive plays, where your teammates like to spot up on the floor, how they interpret situations etc. While it would be ideal for them to learn to play on the fly with Love, Kyrie and LeBron, if the first two are out, why not just let the other players get accustomed to each other. You never know what situation will arise where you may need to try a different lineup, i.e. bringing Love off the bench in the finals. Without that extra time, you as a coaching staff have to find times in games to experiment and even in a loss your team can learn things that may be valuable later in the season.
3. The last player they can ill afford to lose is LeBron, we all believe this as fact, yet we have no problems with LeBron playing as if he’s indestructible. Look at his peers, Dwayne Wade, hobbled with injuries the last few years. Carmelo Anthony hasn’t been the most healthiest player in New York with aching knees. The wear and tear eventually catches up to you. LeBron has played in over 6,000 minutes over the last two excluding this current season. Among players who All NBA selections the last two years, he’s played the second most playoff games, and second most minutes. There’s something to be said about the accumulation of minutes played over his career. Don’t forget he’s also played in the Olympics and FIBA competition in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012. While they only kept records of minutes play in 2012, he played 199 minutes during those London, England Olympics, even if we were conservative and assumed he played 150 minutes during the Olympic years and 80 minutes in the US Men’s National teams, thats an extra 599 minutes of basketball played. So bringing up the comparisons of other players who play more games, it lacks the equivalence of a player that has played competitive games during times where players train and recuperate. That time matters for athletes to ensure their body is in the requisite condition to withstand a season that stretches into June.
- List of All NBA selections with total minutes played from 2014-2016 seasons
4. Lastly the dude has been to 6 consecutive NBA Finals. That has to count for something right? You’d think he’d get the benefit of the doubt that maybe he deserves a break. When speaking of stars from the past, the 1990’s, the 1980’s and 1970’s, none of them had the kind of run that LeBron is currently on. It’s unprecedented to see a player able to carry whatever team he’s on in this way. Even Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, etc weren’t asked or needed to do what LeBron has to just for his teams to have a chance. Think about the Cavs woeful record when he sits and Love and Kyrie plays, its awful and looks equally as bad. He’s a great player for a reason, the Cavs should take a step back when he’s not on the floor, he’s just that good. Should they be more competitive than they are, yes, but if they could sustain success without LeBron we’d see other teams rise to the occasion. They don’t because no matter what team LeBron is on, he automatically makes you a title contender and it’s not even close when you look at another player in the league that improves a team that drastically.
LeBron has never suffered an injury that has sidelined him for more than a few games. He plays through sprained ankles as if they’re equal to having chapped lips. He’s been incredibly durable. Until he’s not. No one knows when he’ll fall off, we just know the fall off is coming, because there’s one thing in this world that is undefeated, father time.
*Statistics from Basketball-Reference