The term 'load management has become quite popular in the last couple of years, with teams resting their best players throughout the regular season. The reason is that teams want to rest their best players as much as possible in the regular season, so they come ready to play in the playoffs when every minute counts and the intensity is much higher. Obviously, that type of strategy rubs a lot of fans the wrong way, and rightfully so.
People pay a lot of money to see the best players perform, so imagine taking your family to a game where you already put the time and the effort to get there, and a player you wanted to see is sitting on the bench even though he is not injured. That causes a lot of frustrations. Even though the NBA is doing its best to punish teams for executing these tactics, some NBA teams have been very deceitful in implementing different ways to rest their best players.
Seeing super start players taking nights out even though they are not injured is an insult to all the fans who pay their hard-earned money to see them perform. People have been vocal about this problem, and another NBA legend that rarely missed games shared his thoughts about this topic.
Utah Jazz legend John Stockton is one of the best point guards in NBA history, still holding all-time records for assists and steals. However, something even more impressive is that Stockton only missed 19 games in his entire NBA career. To make this feat even more unique, he didn't miss a single game in 17 out of 19 seasons he played in the NBA. That is unheard of today among the current NBA players, and it speaks volumes on his durability and level of preparation throughout his entire career.
In one of his interviews, Stockton talked about load management and how players are not doing enough work to be prepared mentally and physically, which are the two critical aspects of being an elite player. Stockton was often the smallest player on the court, but he made up with hard work and tenacity, which he lacked in height and weight. He believes toughness is a necessary trait for any player and his team that wants to be dominant and productive for a more extended period during the season.
I think the big part of the game is your preparation and your toughness, both mental and physical. I don't know if it's always tested if you're rested. Maybe you are not as talented as the other team, but you can outwork them, and if you can't outwork them over a short period of time, maybe you can outwork them over a longer period of time. When you have extended rest and extended timeouts, it's just one factor out of the game that's taken out. So I don't like any of that stuff.
John Stockton, via Utah Jazz
Stockton knows superstar players are the ones that are selling most of the tickets because they are what fans come to see. Especially in this day of age when they have more coverage than any other generation in the NBA with an enormous fanbase worldwide. Back in Stockton's days, sitting out games was not an option, especially if you are a part of a team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs. On top of that, he believes being an NBA player means being a true professional that shows up to work every day, ready to give his best no matter what the circumstances are.
I think people pay to see their favorites; they pay to see guys; they pay to have the best competition you can put on the court on any given night out there, whoever that is. If you're hurt, that's one thing, then the best 11 guys go lay it out there. Anything short of that, I think you can say science, you can say championships, you can say whatever. I think we have a duty to be present and lay our best out there every night. If that's wrong, I guess I'll have to live with it. I think it's a very important factor, and I hope the league figures out a way to fix it. I'd be mad If I paid to go and see a particular guy, and the Mailman doesn't play. It doesn't sound very appealing to me. I don't really buy into the science part.
John Stockton, via Utah Jazz
Stockton gave some pretty interesting statements about the whole problem with load management, and I am sure the majority of fans would agree with him, especially those that saw him play. Of course, his mindset is different because he had to crawl his way into the NBA in the first place and never took anything for granted. A true professional is something many players today don't even understand, even though they have more tools and resources than older generations.
Hopefully, we'll see less load management in the upcoming season, with the best players playing in all of the possible games unless obviously if they are injured, which is entirely understandable. The good thing is that several great teams are aiming for the title, which doesn't leave a lot of room to rest the best players. Seeding will be critical going into the playoffs, and every team wants to have home-court advantage as much as possible. Stockton did it the right way, and hopefully, the younger generation will follow his example because that is also one way to become a legend of the game.