NEW YORK -- Calling it the single most critical issue in the NBA at the moment, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said owners want teams to stop resting multiple players in nationally televised games and that players opt to rest more during home games.
"There is no more important issue in the league right now, it goes to the heart of what we do and the core of competition," Silver said after the NBA's Board of Governors meetings convened in Manhattan. "It is something that we will be spending a lot more time on."
Silver later added: "What we talked about among our owners was a sense of obligation to the game and what appropriate behavior is. And so what we concluded is if we could focus on these two issues, namely, to the extent [if] you're resting, resting at home and avoiding resting multiple starters, especially in marquee games, we could solve a large part of the problem."
Silver said owners discussed the "complex" issue of player rest at the Board of Governors meeting on Thursday and will continue to deliberate on the topic when the competition committee meets in the future.
Silver recently sent a memo to team owners, obtained by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, stating how the league needs to address star players being rested in prime-time games and finding a balance between keeping players healthy and keeping fans and business partners happy.
Silver said there is no consideration right now for reducing the 82-game regular season. But he understands that not only does the NBA have to worry about contenders resting star players with the playoffs in mind but also rebuilding teams holding out players as they jockey for lottery draft pick spots.
"That was discussed as well," Silver said. "I would categorize that as a different kind of resting. On one hand, we have the type of resting midseason, marquee games, national TV games, teams that are clearly in the hunt and are resting for strategic purposes to advance in the season. And then a different kind of resting, where frankly teams are focused on rebuilding. I think that is also a serious issue for the league. [But] not a new issue for the league."
"Sometimes there are other opportunities to give other players on the roster additional minutes, but there is no question a certain amount of jockeying that is going on there as teams look to go into the draft," Silver added. "The larger subject of lottery and odds for the lottery, how so-called lottery picks are protected, in certain cases you have lottery picks one-through-three protected, I think that is something that we discussed at our board meeting and agreed we need to revisit it in a holistic way."
Next season, the NBA will add a week to the schedule to spread games out more. Silver is confident that the prospects of teams playing four games in five nights will almost be completely eliminated and that back-to-back slates will be reduced.
Silver has repeatedly said that he understands rest is needed for players and its correlation to the likelihood of injuries. But he also said that not all the science on rest is clear.
"I have delved into this issue fairly intensively in the last month," Silver said. "The science is much less clear than I thought it would be, and there are different philosophies from different organizations.
"I don't think we are at the point at all where we can see this is a clear science that if a player plays 25 games and rests for three days, that decreases the likelihood of an injury by 26 percent. Sometimes there is a sense that maybe the science is at that point. It's not, as far as we know."
The owners discussed the possibility of issuing guidelines to teams on players rest but nothing that would be an enforceable rule.
The NBA may look at the schedule with the players' association to also find more ways to spread games out. Silver also wants the NBA to do a "much better job of being much more specific of how exactly we categorize players who are sitting out which over time will help us with better data."
"I have enormous respect for our coaches and GMs who are doing everything they can to win, and I am particularly sympathetic to our players because my sense is our players take the brunt of it, but they are not the ones choosing to rest," Silver said. "... It is not a function necessarily of owners calling coaches and saying I am now going to dictate to you or micromanage how you coach the team or how you choose minutes for a particular player, but these need to be organizational decisions where there is a fair balance between the competitive issues and very real business issues on the other hand."
"It's a complex issue," Silver added. "It doesn't mean we will resolve it ... we can't take the game for granted and that the game is bigger than any team or any one person in the room and that we should never take our fans for granted. We have to work through it."