The 2020-21 season is already looking like one of the most unique and bizarre campaigns in NBA history due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The NBA and NBPA agreed on a Dec. 22 start for the regular season, an earlier date than most people expected given that the 2020 NBA Finals ended in the middle of October. Training camp opened this week and the preseason is slated to begin Friday.
A shortened offseason has put teams in position to find every reason to try and rest for their players throughout the year. Load management has been a controversial topic as the league has not been pleased with teams who have sat star players in marquee games in the past.
However, it appears that due to the quick turnaround from the playoffs and the current health crisis, the NBA will offer flexibility to teams to rest players, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The memo, which was obtained by ESPN, says that flexibility applies to teams playing back-to-back games and presents examples of possible scenarios, including, “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.”
The memo also says that qualifying factors to determine whether players fall under “unusual circumstances” include a player’s age, injury history, COVID-19 recovery, season and career workload, and schedule issues — including how many games a team has recently played and how many consecutive road games it has played.
The memo also reinforces rules around nationally televised games that have been in place for multiple seasons, stating that teams are prohibited from resting healthy players for a “high-profile, nationally-televised game.” It states that any team that chooses to do this will be fined at least $100,000.
This seems to be directed to teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James as they are coming off a title run with just about two months of rest. The NBA has emphasized player health and safety is their main priority, so seeing them implement these guidelines is encouraging to see.
Health officials with other teams are already speculating that stars like James will look to rest early in the 2020-21 season, and these new policies appear to support that idea.
Lakers should lean on Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder during 2020-21 season
Adding younger players like Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder appeared to be a focus for Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, and they should pay major dividends during the season.
The majority of the roster is coming off a deep postseason run while veterans Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews are older and in the latter parts of their careers. The combination of Harrell and Schroder should be enough to carry the team in the middle of the season, and head coach Frank Vogel should take advantage of that.
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