Welcome to HeatCulture 2.0, then – the kinder, gentler version that gets the same results without nearly the collateral damage. Erik Spoelstra may sneer at the term “load management,” but what Miami has done with its player usage this season has been a lot more Spursy than anything they’ve tried in the past. Truth be told, the hardcore #HeatCulture has been almost #Cancun-like in terms of the minutes demands on its best players. This carries over from the regular season, too. No Heat player ranked in the league’s top 30 in minutes per game. Butler led the team at 33.8, and he missed 15 games for assorted reasons that were definitely not load management so we won’t call it that. Most notably, he only played in four of Miami’s eight seeding games, and one of them was a 15-minute cameo.
Cayleigh Griffin: To clarify: Russell Westbrook has already been on a minutes restriction the last two games. 25-28 mins in Game 5; 25-30 mins in Game 6. In his media availability, he was asked if he’ll continue to be on one. He said yes. He missed nearly 3 weeks with a strained quad.
Even beyond the overall level of opposition rising significantly as we move through playoff rounds, the exploitative nature of repeated games against the same opponent can change the value of various skillsets. Players who thrive on mistakes can lose effectiveness once those mistakes go away. Predictable tendencies become more easily schemed, specific limitations attackable; witness Chris Paul seeking out opportunities against Robert Covington at the end of Game 6. Covington is a wonderful overall defender who excels in most areas of team defense, but sometimes struggles to contain ball-dominant scorers in one-on-one situations. We don’t have a great model for which types of players tend to fade in this environment, and it is likely that there is a mix of traits which are simply less valuable in the playoffs regardless of opposition, while other situations where the specifics of the pairings turn certain matchups into a bad series for this player or that.
Andrew Greif: Clippers star Kawhi Leonard (injury management, left knee soreness) will NOT play today vs. Portland. Decision was just made. This is the same approach to back-to-backs the Clippers have taken all season with Kawhi. Clippers play Sunday, as well.
Mirjam Swanson: Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts on facing a Clippers team without Kawhi: "Obviously, he's an MVP. he's a defensive player, he's a scorer, he's a key to their team, so it goes without saying that they're a better team with him -- the thing for us ... (against Denver) 1/
Jamie Hudson: Nuggets Injury Report vs. Blazers today: Troy Daniels (right hip; tightness) and Jamal Murray (left hamstring; tightness) are questionable. Will Barton (right knee; soreness), Gary Harris (right hip; muscle strain) and Paul Millsap (rest) are out.
Here’s how it would go, Swin Cash says, if the New Orleans Pelicans give in to what everyone on earth wants them to do – play Zion Williamson 40 minutes a night – and the first pick in last year’s draft got hurt in the Orlando bubble. “If anything were to happen – oh, my goodness,” Cash said with a laugh on this week’s “Hoops, Adjacent” podcast. “They’d be ripping us a new one. Fire ’em all!”
Being smart, Cash, the Pelicans’ vice president of operations and team development, knows better. What happens with the Pels in Orlando does not matter when weighed against the next 10 years – at all. No one in the Big Easy will give a damn in three years if the Pelicans rally to the eighth spot in the west now if Williamson is healthy and beasting opponents in 2023. So keeping him on his current pitch count designed by the team’s medical staff will continue to be official club policy, no matter what it does to New Orleans’ postseason hopes, and no matter what NBA Twitter says. Kowtowing to the “microwave mentality,” as Cash puts it, is franchise suicide. And she’s been far too accomplished in her career to recommend giving in to the will of the moment.
Will Guillory: Griffin: (Zion) will not play significant minutes in the next game, and he may not in the next one."
Mark Followill: For tonight's Mavs vs Nuggets game at 7p on @FOXSportsSW. Porzingis (left knee, injury recovery) and Seth Curry (left ankle sprain) are out. Cauley-Stein and Kidd-Gilchrist who were out due to illness in San Antonio last night are probable.
Chase Hughes: Wizards injury report for tonight vs. Blazers: Thomas Bryant won't play due to management of his R foot issue and Ish Smith is now doubtful with a left hamstring problem.
Andrew Greif: What has made this the right time for Kawhi to guard top scorers more consistently? Matchups, in part, Doc said, but "health-wise, as well, Kawhi can guard anyone now. He doesn’t have to worry about his minutes. Now there’s no restrictions on him anymore and so that’s great."
Miller said he doesn't expect to see Oldadipo missing games going forward. The Pacers are the Eastern Conference's No. 6 seed with 23 games remaining, including three back-to-back nights. "The Pacers believe they could put a stretch and run together," Miller said. "I don't see a lot of load management for Oladipo. I think they want to make a push to get to that fourth spot."
Shams Charania: The Timberwolves have been fined $25,000 for violating the league’s player resting policy when team rested D’Angelo Russell -- a healthy player -- during a road game on Feb. 23.
Christopher Hine: Wolves statement on the fine: "The Timberwolves accept the league's fine for resting D'Angelo Russel on the February 23 game versus Denver. While we respect the league's guidelines and standards, we are a player-centric organization that's focused on learning our players' bodies. As a new player in our program, we chose to rest D'Angelo in order to learn his body better and to optimize his health during a difficult stretch of games and travel."
Dane Moore: The Timberwolves total in team salary this season is currently $133,229,188. A $25k fine is .019% of that number. Kinda like a nickel on the ground that you don't bother to pick up.
Jovan Buha: Kawhi Leonard (injury management — left knee soreness) and Patrick Beverley (groin) are out vs. Cleveland today, the Clippers announced.
According to Clippers sources, that’s precisely why they refer to Leonard’s situation more accurately as ‘injury management.’ As The Athletic reported in early November, the fact that Leonard was not considered a “fully healthy player” meant he would sit out as often as the doctors advised this season. Sources say the medical advice, at present, still mandates that he not play in back-to-back games — hence the fact that he sat out against the Hawks despite the fact that the team was already without two other key players.
Andrew Greif: Clippers forwards Paul George (hamstring) and Kawhi Leonard (left knee injury management) will *not* play tonight in Atlanta, per the team. Pat Beverley, who left last night’s win in Dallas with a sore right groin, is “doubtful” to play.
Vincent Ellis: This is the full quote. My bad. #Pistons Derrick Rose: “I feel good, but it’s not up to me with the minutes. It’s up to the coaching staff and the (medical) staff. Of course, I want to be out there, but I guess they see something I don’t, and they’re worried about me.”
Vincent Ellis: More from #Pistons Derrick Rose: “It’s all up to them. It’s not me. Can I play them? Yes, if that’s what you’re asking me. I can play the minutes.”
And Vogel was hired, in part, to enable James. So enable him he did. It’s not a bad plan. As James goes, the Lakers tend to go. On Wednesday, the Lakers were +3 in the 39 minutes he was on the floor and -8 in the nine minutes he sat. The Lakers’ inability to maximize their non-LeBron minutes is extra problematic given the late-night report from ESPN that James may be forced to miss games coming up after aggravating a groin muscle issue on a collision with Beverley in the first quarter. “I’m always around the clock with my body, getting my treatment,” James said. “If I’m feeling great, I’ll be in the lineup. If I’m feeling well I’ll be in the lineup. But like I said, we’ll see what happens.”
You were recently called out by Doc Rivers after criticizing Kawhi Leonard’s load management. What did you take away from that? Doris Burke: I had reached out to the Clippers directly and said if Kawhi wants to say anything to me, let him know that I am happy to listen to whatever he might say to me. That’s our job as broadcasters. You have to be able to look that person in the eye. He chose not to do that and that’s fine.
Doris Burke: The same way with Doc. He was speaking from a frustrated coaching perspective and he used me as a launching off point. … If I could do it all over, I would make it less personal. I could’ve used a different term than “ridiculous.” I am aware of the power of the words, so I use those carefully. I don’t regret anything I said, though, I was frustrated from the fan’s perspective of missing out on a Kawhi-Giannis (Antetokounmpo) matchup.
Doc Rivers brought some heat when asked about LeBron's take on load management: "It's our philosophy. I don't know what theirs are. I think theirs is whatever LeBron says it is." (via @MarkG_Medina )
It goes without saying that James is a physical anomaly. This is far from breaking news. But assuming that Father Time will come for James at some point, you might think the Lakers would be taking precautions with him. He has played in every one of the Lakers’ 27 games, but he is playing under 35 minutes a night for the first time in his career — barely, at 34.6. His 25.9 points per game are the second most by a player in a season he turns 35 — second only to Alex English’s 26.5 for the Nuggets in 1988-89.
On Sunday, even as the Hawks were threatening, James got a fourth-quarter break which has become standard procedure. He played slightly above his average at over 36 minutes, but the Lakers have no strong desire to overwhelm him in a game when he doesn’t need to play every second. “My line of demarcation is play him as little as possible to get the win. And just try to keep a smart number in mind,” Vogel said. “Obviously there’s times when we’re going to go over it but I think if I can get him averaging 34 minutes I think that would probably be the ideal situation.”
LeBron James re-iterated Sunday night that he has zero interest in being load managed in Year 17. “If I’m healthy, then I’m gonna play,” James told reporters after posting 32 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in the Lakers’ 101-96 road win against the Atlanta Hawks.
The NBA has said Leonard is not healthy enough to play on consecutive nights because of an ongoing left knee injury. That hasn’t kept the Clippers from being heavily criticized for their “load management,” with ESPN broadcaster Doris Burke among the most prominent voices to question why Leonard sat out nationally televised games earlier this season.
“It’s funny how everyone talks about these back-to-backs and they’re making it better and then they do this,” Rivers said. “It’s the exact opposite of what everyone said they’re trying to do. And then you have the Doris Burkes of the world complaining about guys’ load management and then the network they work on are the ones that are changing the game times.”
“We’re talking about trying to keep players out of harm’s way, and it’s the exact opposite of what we’re doing,” Rivers said. “If you play at 7 you shouldn’t play before 7 the next [day]. I’ve always said that. This is like a 22-hour time change difference and plus we have to travel. So it’s really a tough one but no one’s going to feel sorry for us tomorrow, I can guarantee you that.”
Logan Murdock: Steve Kerr reasoned that Draymond Green earned the right to have rest days because he’s played five straight seasons into the Finals. So I asked if the same logic applies to him as a coach. His response: “The coach does not receive the same treatment unfortunately.” pic.twitter.com/I7y1sl7dpw
Chris Haynes: Los Angeles Clippers will hold Kawhi Leonard out of tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers with knee maintenance.
Jovan Buha: Kawhi Leonard (injury management — left knee soreness) is out vs. Memphis tonight, the team announced.
The league values such planning. They contacted the Clippers in the offseason and asked if the team had any general road map for when Leonard might sit out, sources said. The Clippers replied that they could not provide one at that point. In the end, all these decisions -- whether a team may rest a healthy player in a game normally subject to the resting policy, or whether a player designated as "injured" truly is injured -- can be sent as high as Adam Silver, the league's commissioner, for approval. "We are not getting gamed," Spruell said.
The league also has allowed for some wiggle room on what constitutes a "high-profile" national TV game, sources said. A game on NBA TV might not be the same as a game on ESPN or TNT. A Golden State Warriors-New Orleans Pelicans game without Zion Williamson and most of Golden State's foundational stars might no longer qualify as "high profile" -- providing teams more flexibility in resting healthy players.
On a semi-related note, the NBA and its broadcast partners -- ESPN included -- have recently discussed the possibility and feasibility of more aggressively "flexing" out scheduled national TV games that do not look as appealing in light of injuries and team performance, sources said. Some mega-teams -- the Lakers, for example -- will never be flexed regardless of injury. On some national TV nights, there are few alternatives on the schedule.
Derek Bodner: Joel Embiid, asked whether his limited minutes due to foul trouble might help keep him fresh for tomorrow night's game against the Heat: "Load management. That's some BS...I'm tired of sitting. I just want to play."
Cayleigh Griffin: “We always consider load management with James, but he can carry a huge load.” - Coach D’Antoni on Harden and how he does not want to take a game off
Fred Katz: Brooks said Beal didn’t do much yesterday in practice and won’t tomorrow “so the load management is gonna be alright” after Beal played 42 minutes tonight.
Rose: "It was just a different time in the sports world, period. Now we have the term “load management.” I don’t think that I would’ve taken it as far as Kawhi, as far as like they’re really being cautious about his injury or whatever he has. But if load management would’ve been around, who knows? I probably would’ve still been a Chicago Bull by now. But it wasn’t around."
When he played 40 minutes and 44 seconds in a 21-point loss to Sacramento earlier this month, David Fizdale bristled at a question about the possible strain on Barrett. Where some saw overzealousness from the head coach in bringing the rookie back into the game in the fourth quarter with nine minutes remaining — and 34 minutes of wear already on Barrett — Fizdale saw no reason to question him. “He’s got the day off tomorrow,” Fizdale said in a pique. “We gotta get off this load management crap. Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid’s 19 years old. Drop it.”
Jonathan Feigen: Tyson Chandler to get night off for Rockets vs. Blazers after playing the back-to-back. Hartenstein to be backup center.
Now, it’s cutting out some shootarounds entirely. Through Donovan’s first three seasons in Oklahoma City, the Thunder coach had a borderline religious devotion to the gameday morning ritual that’s slowly dying around the NBA. Call it the Thunder’s way of “load management.” “I think when people immediately go to the stat sheet and say, ‘Oh my God, that guy played 38 minutes tonight,’ … I think everybody looks at the minutes played per game and they think, ‘Oh, load management,’” Donovan said. “But they don’t understand all the other things that lead up to that, too.”
That changed against the Sixers on Friday. Paul played the entire fourth quarter and all five minutes of overtime. The Thunder were plus-11 in those minutes. Does Paul get those minutes if the Thunder has a shootaround that morning? The Thunder didn’t have a morning shootaround Friday and instead chose to have a walkthrough at the arena later a few hours before tipoff. Not having a shootaround is another way to manage the workload of players. “There’s also load management around practice, shootarounds, schedule, travel … that all plays a factor into it,” Donovan said.
Playoff-bound teams rest players at the risk of losing games or even home-court advantage... as do lowly ones like Memphis, which rested 20-year-old rookie Ja Morant for a weekend home loss. I've got an idea! Play fewer games! Oh, right, that would mean less revenue and lower salaries. That's one thing that unites owners and players: No one wants that.
Dane Moore: Russell Westbrook now officially ruled out of tonight’s matchup with the Timberwolves. Westbrook is resting the second night of the Rockets back-to-back. There will be a lot of Ben McLemore and Chris Clemons for Houston in Westbrook’s absence.
Cuban believes load management is a good way for teams to preserve their stars for the playoffs. He suggested that in the 1980s and ’90s the quality of basketball was hindered by fatigue, with the league’s top players near exhaustion when the postseason arrived. “Worse than missing a player in a game is missing him in the playoffs,” he said. “And if you go back to the days where guys played 42 minutes a game and there were 10 guys in the league playing 40-plus minutes, the quality of the game wasn’t nearly as good. We gave them a hard time about being worn out or saving themselves for the fourth quarter, and now all the data says you maintain their usage levels over the course of the season with rest, so you’re seeing guys playing 36 minutes, which is a lot.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich began the practice of load management several years ago, giving aging veterans Tim Duncan and Tony Parker nights off. Cuban said Popovich wasn’t exactly trying to be an innovator, it was gamesmanship. “Pop was doing it just to [mess] with people,” Cuban said. “Now it’s all data-driven. Let’s just do it to mess with the league and our meal ticket, the fans, and just do something just because it might be interesting. We spent so much money on not just analytics but biometrics to know how smart we could be.”
Mark Berman: Mike D’Antoni says Clint Capela out tonight and tomorrow night. Danuel House out tonight, 50-50 tomorrow. Says Russell Westbrook will probably be out tomorrow for load management. Says Ben McLemore in the starting lineup tonight. pic.twitter.com/eez9WdBdBG
Micah Adams: Clippers are 0-3 in games without Kawhi. Raptors went 17-5. I’m not saying it’s significant. But it’s not insignificant.
However, maintains Fergus Connolly, a sports science expert and author of “Game Changer: The Art of Sports Science,” using load to assess injury risk has challenges. “The first challenge is that it’s hard to accurately define load,” Connolly says. “Is it a number defined by the previous game, or is it the chronic level for a season?” Connolly adds that it’s impossible to assess load by one simple number, formula or metric. The calculus of load is not only different for each player but also is a moving target that varies by time of season, age and even by opponent. Kawhi Leonard’s load tolerance today is surely different than it was five years ago, in ways that are difficult to understand. “It’s like painting by numbers when you don’t have all of the numbers,” says Connolly, who has served as a performance director in the NFL, “And trying to fill in those gaps with incomplete data.”
Says Tim DiFrancesco, former head strength and conditioning coach for the Lakers: “Even if we can come up with a number that measures on-the-court load or stress, we don’t know what might be contributing to load off the court — lifestyle stressors like travel, sleep or family problems.” When looking at injuries, in any sport, there’s the idea that a range of injury exists, from “not preventable” at one end, to “preventable” at the other end. Some injuries — Aron Baynes falling on Stephen Curry’s hand, for instance – are difficult to foresee and impossible to prevent. Those injuries have little to do with load and a lot to do with luck.
Without that constructive stress, muscles, tendons and ligaments might not be ready to take the demands of running, jumping and cutting for 82 games. Players coming off the bench, thrust into a starting role, might actually be at greater risk of injury than starters, at least if they haven’t been regularly hitting high intensities in practice. “For me, load management is more about what a player does to prep for the load of the season,” emphasizes DiFrancesco, “and sitting on the couch and resting might actually leave a player less prepared to handle load. Because of that, it’s likely, when a player sits out a game, he might have instead done a focused workout that day.”
Ben Fischer: WarnerMedia Chair Jeff Zucker on NBA ratings weakness this season: “I think the combination of injuries and sitting out has been an issue, and I think that’s concern, and hopefully that will get addressed over time.... "I think the league has some influence over teams and i would like them to exert that influence." WarnerMedia Chair Jeff Zucker on load management in the NBA. #SBJSMT
Tim MacMahon: Doc Rivers says he expects Paul George to make his Clippers debut tomorrow in New Orleans. Will Kawhi Leonard play on the second night of a back-to-back? “I don’t know yet,” Rivers said. “That was a good question. Nice try.”
Gary Washburn: Isaiah Thomas says he took the bullet for players playing injured that has helped create “load management” and encourages players to do whatever it takes to preserve their health. #Wizards #Celtics pic.twitter.com/yGSKWQXWNp
Amid the ongoing debate about resting players in the NBA, count Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among those openly willing to support load management. "The problem isn't load management, per se," Cuban told reporters in Boston on Monday. "I think teams have to be smarter about when to load manage. I'm all for load management. Worse than missing a player in a [regular-season] game is missing him in the playoffs."
"It's all data-driven," Cuban said. "We're not going, 'OK, let's just mess with the league and our meal ticket to fans to do something just because it might be interesting. We spend so much money, not just on analytics for predictive reasons, but also for biometrics so we know how smart we can be. "The dumb thing would be to ignore the science."
Cuban said that while it might be frustrating to see players on the bench now, it all pays off in the postseason. "You actually get more of your stars [in the playoffs]," Cuban said. "You get shorter rotations of more of the guys playing in the playoffs, which is what you want to see anyway, right?"
Kyle Neubeck: Joel Embiid’s status for tomorrow will be updated by tomorrow’s 1 pm deadline, Sixers say. Read between the lines on that one
February 1, 2023 | 10:34 am EST Update
With Montrezl Harrell’s defensive issues and Paul Reed not yet earning the trust of the coaching staff, sources say the Sixers would be open to bringing in another big even if they don’t move one of Embiid’s current backups. It’s the easy place for your mind to drift, but former Sixers big Andre Drummond is an example, if a high-end example, of the sort of player we could be talking about, a big-bodied player and strong rebounder in the more traditional school of bigs. (Naz Reid is a hot player in the rumor mill around the league, though I think he skews more toward the Harrell style of bigs and wouldn’t expect him to be in the mix for Philly.)
The other big roster need, one I was slightly surprised to hear the Sixers are prioritizing, is at the backup five position. It has been a sore spot for the franchise in the Embiid era, and remains one again this season. Philadelphia already has three nominal bigs on the roster, including star center Embiid, but sources say they would be interested in acquiring a safer/more traditional backup to Embiid for certain matchups in the playoffs.
In terms of potential outgoings, the most likely names to be sent out are Furkan Korkmaz, Danuel House Jr., and Jaden Springer, sources say, with the first two out of the rotation and the third never having cracked it.
It’s no guarantee the Raptors decide to move on from Siakam that soon. From a team perspective, it would certainly be comforting to see both Siakam and Barnes, fairly similar players, thrive offensively at the same time. For his part, Siakam isn’t the type to get involved. “Out of my control. Focus on what I have every single day, work with what I have, help wherever I can,” Siakam said of the trade rumours surrounding his team, and whether he wants this version of the team to stay intact. “That’s it. Out of my hands. It’s out of my control, so I have nothing to say about it.”
Don’t expect the big swing at the NBA trade deadline that mortgages any of the future for the present. But if the growth of the Thunder’s young core and the parity of the conference keeps that playoff door ajar, they’ll gladly walk right through. “Coach challenged us at the beginning of January,” Muscala said. “He said, ‘Hey, this is when a lot of teams are in the quote-unquote ‘dog days’ of the season. There’s kind of a tendency to let down. Let’s really challenge ourselves to be in the moment, do the little things, take care of our bodies, do skill work. It’s shown this month.”
Jeremy Schaap: Our interview with @MeyersLeonard , the former Portland and Miami center who is hoping to return to the NBA. Nearly two years ago, he used an antisemitic slur while playing Call of Duty on Twitch. A warning–this story includes offensive language.
On Monday night against Golden State, Gilgeous-Alexander shook off an 0-of-5 start to finish with 31 points and seven assists. Twenty-one came in a rapid second-half comeback, when he beat Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and Donte DiVincenzo with a variety of patient isolation attacks, scoring over or passing around Green and Kevon Looney when they’d collapse. “He gets to his spot just as good as anybody in the league,” Green said. “He’s strong as s—. I didn’t realize how strong he’s gotten. Physical, not ducking no contact. Just getting to his spot and getting what he wants. Just delivers his shoulder, gets to his spot and he’s 6-foot-7.”