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Murph: Resting players becoming an ‘epidemic in modern NBA’




It’s the NBA’s equivalent of the “safe space”, and it’s got to stop.

It’s an insult to the paying customer, and in today’s NBA, that means paying a *lot*.

And on top of everything else, it’s a bad look. Nobody likes bad looks.

We’re talking about the latest craze in the NBA, resting healthy players for no reason other than, well . . .  to rest.

On Tuesday night in Cleveland, the Cavs beat the Memphis Grizzlies. After the game, coach Tyronn Lue announced that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would not make the flight to Memphis for Wednesday’s game, also against the Grizzlies.

Why? Lue said it was it was his decision, and it was to rest his players. LeBron was miffed when he was asked about it, and fell back on a pair of lame excuses.

— “My coach wanted to rest us, and I don’t buck my coach.”

Hang on for a second. David Blatt was just texting. I needed to get back to him. Oh, and I needed to remove my finger from down my throat, too.

— “I’ve been in this league 14 years. I shouldn’t have to explain sitting out games. I’ve played in every arena in this league, including Seattle which is no longer there.”

Aha! The old “I remember the SuperSonics”/look-at-this-shiny-object argument. Well-played, Bron Bron. Or, not.

It would be easy to only pick on LeBron James, because let’s be honest, it’s fun to pick on LeBron James.

But the truth is, this is an epidemic in the modern NBA, and it started in earnest with the much-revered San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. About five years ago, Popovich began the regular practice of giving the NBA and the fans half the peace sign by having stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker skip flights, games and cities. Popovich is an admirable man in many ways, but starting the trend of the “healthy scratch” is not one of them.

Truth told, I used to be a sheep. I went along with Popovich’s logic, and blamed the NBA for its ridiculous scheduling — five games in seven nights, or back-to-back road games in L.A. and Denver, et cetera. The NBA schedule can be tedious. The Warriors have a stretch coming up from Feb. 27 to March 11 that features eight games in 13 nights, including three back-to-backs. That’s hard on the knees, even given Ritz Carltons and private jets.

But I opened my ears of late and listened to colleagues, like the wise-beyond-his-years Pat (Peaches) Connor. Ol’ Pat is right. Here’s the thing: Life’s hard. Your job is hard. Your spouse’s job is hard. Your neighbor’s job is hard. As the great American philosopher Denis Leary once advised us: “Life sucks. Buy a helmet.”

We’ve seen too much coddling of the new generation, including geographic areas on college campuses where students who are offended by different ideas go to be “safe”. Here’s the thing: Life isn’t safe. It’s a grind. We should be encouraging our kids to not feel safe, but to feel tough and brave. It’ll make for a lot smoother ride through the turbulence we call existence, sports fans.

And when their NBA heroes take days off — again, not just LeBron; your beloved Warriors will do this, too — the wrong message is sent. The message is that when things are hard, you should retreat. We don’t want a generation of retreaters do we?

I get that the playoffs are long. I get that some of these guys played in the Olympics. I get, like Roger Murdock once scolded us, *you* trying dragging Walton and Lanier up the court for 48 minutes.

But I have some news for today’s Lear Jet-flying, massage trainer-having, multi-million-dollar salary-earning athletes:

Michael Jordan played all 82 games nine different times in his career, including all three years from 1996-98, when he was 32, 33 and 34, and tearing off three straight NBA titles.

And Karl Malone played 82 games nine different times, also, including once when he was 36-years old.

Did they have to walk to school uphill both ways, in the snow? Yep. And they did it.

After all, they’re playing basketball for a living. Lace ‘em up, boys.