Quit blaming players for resting; it’s on coaches, GMs & owners

Question: Why are players taking the brunt of the criticism for resting during regular-season games?

For the past few weeks, all I’ve heard are things like “the players nowadays are so soft” or “it’s ridiculous that these guys sit out when they’re healthy,” or maybe something like “it’s so unfair to the fans that they don’t get to see players such as LeBron James and Stephen Curry play — even when they’re not injured.”

I heard one media member say today: “The players are angering the fans with this sitting out stuff.” This was the topic of conversation during my interview with 95.7-FM The Game this morning and it got pretty lively.


So, let me ask again: Why are the players getting the heat? They’re not the ones asking for days off; they’re not the ones complaining that they’re worn out and need to be healthy scratch; they’re not the ones responsible for this issue.

Let’s be clear: It’s the coaches’ fault, it’s the front offices’ fault and it’s the owners’ fault. So let’s quit raking the players over the coals. When Warriors coach Steve Kerr decided to rest four of his best players during a game against San Antonio on March 11, it wasn’t the players’ idea. It was the organization’s idea, and included the team’s training staff.

Last year, Kerr tried to give Draymond Green two consecutive days off to rest, though he was nursing a very mild injury. Green took the first night off, but that was all he could endure. He went to Kerr and said he wanted to play the next night … against the Lakers. Kerr relented, but the point is that players can’t usually dictate their own playing time to a coach.

Perhaps the most important decision a coach has is divvying up playing time. It’s the basis for how they strategize and how they reward or penalize players. So you’re telling me that this task should now be given to the players? Isn’t that what you’re saying you want: That Popovich can’t coach his team like he wants, but that the players can dictate when to play or not. That’s not the way it is.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford started the whole idea of resting players in the hope having fresher players in the postseason and also maybe lengthening careers. It’s now become part of the San Antonio culture. Playing 82 games isn’t a badge of honor for the Spurs; it’s a badge of stupidity. For goodness sakes even if a player wanted to play all 82 in San Antonio, Popovich wouldn’t let him.

Of course there are players who welcome a day off here and there or who won’t object if the coach tells him he’s not playing in a certain game. But that’s not even close to the same as blaming players and perpetuating an incorrect stereotype that the players are the ones in control of this situation. They’re not. It’s the coaches, general managers and owners who are responsible for this. So stop pointing the finger at the players.









About Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area sports journalist. He covered the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area News Group for more than a decade before becoming a television analyst with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Steinmetz can be heard on "Steiny & Guru" on 95.7-FM The Game in San Francisco, from 12-3.
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