NBA Changes Resting Policies for Non-Nationally Televised Games amid COVID-19

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The NBA is returning less than three months after the conclusion of its last season and reportedly is giving teams the flexibility to rest players during non-nationally televised games. 

According to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, the league sent its team a memo on Monday explaining they will have more freedom to rest players on back-to-back games and “to rest a key veteran player who played a substantial role on a team that advanced deep into the 2020 Playoffs, or to rest a player who is still returning to full strength after recovering from COVID-19.”

However, the memo made clear teams cannot rest healthy players for the nationally-televised games or they risk fines of at least $100,000. That rule has been in place for multiple seasons.

A number of factors will be considered for whether players can be rested, including their age, injury history and overall workload.

That is notable for someone like LeBron James, who finished winning a championship in October and turns 36 years old later this month. The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to compete for another title and have enough firepower to compete for the playoffs even if the King misses some time with an eye on the playoffs.

“I’ve always listened to my coaches,” James said Monday when asked about resting. “We had the same thing last year. We’re going to be as smart as we can be on … making sure that my body, on making sure that I’m ready to go.

Teams resting star players has become a tricky issue for the league of late.

On the one hand, it has its television partners and the paying customer at games to consider. Many times, those fans are primarily watching or attending games to see players such as James and Kawhi Leonard, especially when those star players are on the road in a city that may only host them once a season.

However, with fan attendance in doubt because of the COVID-19 pandemic at least eliminates the worries of star players resting during marquee and limited road games.

On the other hand, teams are competing for championships. Having their star players fresher for the playoffs is far more important than singular games in the middle of the regular season, and some have rested accordingly.

It seems as if the league will be much more forgiving of resting players when their games are not on national television.

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