LeBron James didn’t play basketball
The malady in this case was “rest,” as provided by James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in explanation and as accepted by Adam Silver’s NBA by rote. As a result, James sat out a game in Indianapolis against the Pacers – the third such game (out of five) in Indy that he’s sat out due to rest since re-joining the Cavs back in the summer of 2014.
The Pacers won, not quite handily but with aplomb,
Watching the game, you couldn’t have helped wonder how many of those 17K-strong had made a point to pounce on this ticket all the way back in August, mindful of the enhanced price due to the champs’ and (mostly) James’ presence. A price that no doubt vaulted ahead of the toll it would take to have seen Elfrid Payton’s hair on Monday night in a Pacer win over Orlando, or Devin Booker’s racing-stripe sideburns (and game) in a contest against Phoenix on Friday evening.
Bob Kravitz, the much-respected dean of Indianapolis sports columnists,
(Pardon my dive into the realm of the uncouth: Cal Ripken Jr., in the middle of his impressive consecutive games streak, sucked more than his fair share of times in years that should have acted as peak seasons. He needed far more breaks than he took.)
I like Bob a lot, and you should as well. He’s a great guy and a fantastic writer. One would hope he would, in the wake of the Great Hot Take Realization of 2010, be performing with tongue placed firmly in cheek.
Nate McMillan, you’ll recall, is the player who at the young age of 31 could not participate in the 1996 NBA Finals – his lone championship round appearance – due to crippling back woes stemming from overuse. Even though McMillan, a backup to Gary Payton, had not been a starter and heavy-minutes performer for six years at that point.
The point with LeBron James – sitting his 11th game of the season just 22 days after the 2016-17 season started – is that the timing doesn’t matter. It’s the time that gets in the way. Saving minutes in April helps as much as knocking them from the ledger in November, so the cries about “11th game!!” fall flat.
If April breaks did somehow count more than autumn respites, then the NBA would be borderline unwatchable following St. Patrick’s Day. It’s certainly better to dot the schedule with nights off, instead of forcing them all at once next spring on a paying public that is driving through snow-less streets for the first time in four months.
It truly is a drag that both Pacer and general NBA fans, giddy to see LeBron early in the campaign and mindful that his scheduled pre-All-Star break Feb. 8 performance in Indy might be more prone to inspire a sit-down, missed out on James on Wednesday night. For an athlete expected to play deep into June for his seventh season in a row, though, this is what has to happen. A locally-televised game and few thousand selective fans have to be sacrificed in the name of being at one’s best in the middle of June, on ABC.
Mainly because LeBron James was in northern Ohio just the night before, helping his Cavaliers defend home court (in front of paying home fans) in a successful Eastern Conference finals rematch pairing against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. James and the Cavaliers were in the midst of one of 17 back-to-backs that they’ll be asked to play in 2016-17.
For what we hope will be the last season of back-to-back basketball. Roll over Oscar Robertson, tell Art Heyman the news.
The league’s new collective bargaining agreement,
The league has to start in mid-October,
The 82-game schedule isn’t going anywhere, as no NBA team is going to burn the chance to be able to schedule LeBron James (whether he plays or not) once or twice a season in their home arena. What does need to stretch out is the length of time, in a season that still manages to produce headlines until the sleepy season
An official run, with fewer of these pointless exhibition games that even NBA dorks like yours truly doesn’t watch.
The NBA has worked its tail off to ensure that we have fewer back-to-back and four-games-in-five-night expectations than ever: Cleveland doesn’t even have a 4-in-5 run scheduled this season.
As pitched currently, however, the forecast remains unfair to all involved. It isn’t fair to James, the coddled “multi-zillionaire” (
It isn’t fair to those fans, it isn’t fair to the new-look Pacers – champing at the bit to see how their re-acclimated game fits alongside the champs. It isn’t fair to us that Bob Kravitz’s great Paul George vs. LeBron James column
We should have gotten a nicer Wednesday night. The Toronto Raptors could have played better, against Golden State, in a nationally televised second half of a back-to-back. LeBron could have lined up against Paul George as expected. The fans could have taken in what reasonable expectation had promised them back in August. You wouldn’t have to read any of this, from Kelly or
Hopefully, 2016-17 will stand as the last time we’ll have to do this.
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