While load management has become one of the most hated things about the modern NBA, the lack of rest for the Boston Celtics stars may lead to a shorter playoff run than C’s fans hope for.
Arguing for load management is pretty close to just screaming, ‘I hate sports.’ It’s universally looked down upon by fans and media from all generations. But it is by far a necessary evil.
The Celtics this season have cruised to a league-best record in large part due to consistent quality play from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown night in and night out. This is mostly a good thing. Having that team cohesiveness and familiarity with playing style is a difference maker for a contending team. But you also risk putting unnecessary wear and tear on your two best players by letting them play every game.
Both Tatum and Brown are high on the list of players with the most minutes played and players with the highest usage rate (with Tatum 4th and 7th on the respective lists and Brown 20th and 13th).
This is not the Boston Celtics of the 80s
Fans from the 80s and 90s may like to regale modern NBA fans with stories about legendary Dream Teamers playing through injuries. Specifically, old-head Celtics fans may point to how Kevin McHale played on a broken foot in the 87 playoffs and how Larry Bird played on a broken back for several seasons.
But that was a different era. Most players played every night regardless of team, so everyone was on an equal playing field come playoff time.
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In today’s league, most contending teams do some load management for their star players (usually the veteran ones) and strategically sit them out to give them rest. If your team doesn’t do that with their players, you’re coming into the playoffs with a clear disadvantage.
Load management flat-out sucks for the fans, specifically those who may buy tickets for fans without knowing that the people they’re paying to see aren’t going to play.
A recent Yahoo Sports article detailed a series of high-profile games this year where some of the biggest stars sat out. Including a TNT doubleheader where Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey were out for the Sixers in the first game, and Chris Paul and Lebron James were out for the Suns and Lakers in the next game.
We’ve already seen the Celtics dabble in this with Al Horford, who seems to give all of his minutes to Blake Griffin once every couple of weeks. The team likely chose to bench Jayson Tatum in Saturday’s game with the Raptors after he played almost the entire game against the Warriors on Friday.
The prospect of seeing less of Tatum and Brown going off in regular season games may sound like a pretty crappy idea for someone to suggest, let alone for someone who claims to like the Celtics. But wouldn’t you, as a fan, trade in a few Tatum and Brown performances in the regular season for a deeper playoff run?