There were a lot of people in the NBA community who were not happy when the Cavaliers decided to rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love during a nationally-televised game against the Clippers on Saturday night.
ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said it should be considered a "prosecutable offense." Former NBA player Karl Malone blasted Cleveland’s Big 3 for not taking part in the contest and compared them to the "underpaid service members and police and first responders" who don’t get the luxury of resting whenever they want to. And according to reports, even the NBA league office was angry about the Cavaliers’ decision to rest their three stars on the biggest stage. Someone from the league reportedly called Cavaliers general manager David Griffin to complain about it.
But it doesn’t sound like the Cavaliers think anyone should be complaining about them sitting their stars. After Cleveland beat the Lakers 125-120 in Los Angeles on Sunday night, LeBron was asked to respond to the criticism his team faced in the 24 hours following their 108-78 loss to the Clippers. He downplayed it and said that players resting is a reality that NBA fans and those within the league are going to have to accept.
"I don’t think the NBA can do anything about it," he said. "At the end of the day, it sucks at times where certain guys have to rest, but certain guys need rest. And it’s a long, strenuous season and the NBA does a great job of putting the schedule together as best as they can. You’re going to have back-to-backs. You’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights, but a coach’s job is to figure out a way for their team to compete for a championship, not compete for a game."
LeBron went on to say that he actually wanted to play against the Clippers but was told to sit out by his head coach Tyronn Lue.
"Obviously it sucks at times because certain games you only play in certain cities once, or you play certain teams once on their home floor, but for me personally, I want to play in every game," he said. "I wanted to play last night, but my coach felt like it was best that I didn’t play last night, so I’m going to go with my coach and he’s never steered me wrong."
Lue also reacted to the league’s reaction to the Cavaliers resting their Big 3, and he referred to it as "stupid." He said that Irving and Love both legitimately needed to sit out due to injuries and that LeBron needed to take the night off for rest as well.
"Kyrie didn’t come back the game before, knee soreness, Kevin just had his first game back," he said. "We needed two days in between each game. It’s OK, though, whatever, it’s stupid."
The Cavaliers are obviously not the first team to face criticism for resting players during a game shown on national TV. The Spurs and Warriors did the same exact earlier this month and faced the same kind of backlash from those in NBA circles. So it’s becoming more and more clear that the NBA is probably going to need to sit down and figure out a way to avoid running into this problem repeatedly in the future.