The question of whether to rest players during a long NBA season might be an issue these days for the league and several teams, but not with the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets, chasing the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, aren’t in a position to rest anybody. But if they were?
“It’s easy for me, because I’m working for an owner who just doesn’t believe in it,” said Hornets coach Steve Clifford. “And I have an associate head coach who would kill me if I started doing it.
“It’s pretty easy here.”
Clifford, of course, is referring to Hornets owner Michael Jordan and associate head coach Patrick Ewing, two Hall of Famers who are remembered as much for their competitiveness and toughness as players as their talent.
Their opinions run counter to the recent trend of teams giving their players a break or two throughout the season, ostensibly to rest them during an 82-game regular season for the playoffs. One of those teams is the Hornets’ opponent Friday, the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who recently sat stars LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. (The Cavs have given no indication that James, Love and Irving won’t play against the Hornets.)
The Cavs were outdone by the Golden State Warriors, who a week earlier had taken the air out of a much-anticipated nationally televised game against San Antonio by giving Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green the night off.
It’s easy for me, because I’m working for an owner who just doesn’t believe in it.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford
“When I played there wasn’t anybody resting people,” said Ewing, who played from 1985-2002. “We just played. I’m not going to say I disagree, because sometimes you need a rest, but it just wasn’t something we did. We got everybody out there.”
Don’t think that Ewing, 54, is only speaking as a curmudgeon from another era. The play-every-night ethos on the Hornets engendered by Jordan, Ewing and Clifford has filtered to the players, who, admittedly, must all be available as the team scrambles to make the playoffs.
“We’re not in a position to rest guys,” said forward Marvin Williams. “We’ve got guys who are beat up, sick or hurt – and we need all hands on deck. We need to bring whatever kind of energy we can to get in to the postseason.”
The recent spate of resting players forced NBA commissioner Adam Silver to send a memo to owners, telling them teams would face penalties if they didn’t give the league adequate notice a player would be rested. He also implied that owners should take an active role in making the decision to give players rest.
Some NBA teams have rested their key players this season as the playoffs approach.
Resting players isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon and it’s not the first time a commissioner has gotten involved. Former NBA commissioner David Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 in 2012 when coach Gregg Popovich didn’t even bring stars Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Danny Green to the final game of a road trip.
The NBA season is long, with brutal travel schedules taking a toll. So teams like Golden State and Cleveland – their playoff spots already ensured – are fighting that by giving their best players an occasional game off.
$250,000 Amount former NBA commissioner fined San Antonio Spurs for resting players in 2012.
But there are ways to combat the grind.
“Coach (Clifford) does a great job of getting us rested and having our tough practices be few and far between,” said Williams. “It’s low impact, not much banging, and he gets us out of there.”
Williams also said the Hornets’ practice of flying back to Charlotte overnight after road games is less stressful. Now, the team often goes back to the hotel, gets a good night’s sleep and flies back the next morning.
But, still the bottom line for the Hornets is that they need all their best players out there every night if they’re going to make the playoffs.
Not that it would matter, whatever the Hornets’ situation.
“I’ve had two or three dinners with Michael and Patrick where we’ve talked about this,” said Clifford. “Michael doesn’t understand it. Nor does Patrick.”