Load management will be an issue this year for the NBA as a result of the shortened offseason. The bubble ended on October 12 and the season will start back up again December 22. For the final four -- and even final eight -- teams from the playoffs last year, that's not enough recovery time to rest up and play basketball.
Earlier today, the NBA told its teams that if they chose to rest players during nationally-televised broadcasts, they could incur heavy penalties. But in an additional note, reported by Tim Bontemps, the league noted that resting otherwise healthy players during local broadcasts is fine. Especially if you happened to be a playoff team last year. Per ESPN:
"In a memo sent to teams by the NBA Monday morning, the league laid out resting policies for the upcoming 2020-21 regular season -- including granting significant flexibility to teams resting players in non-nationally televised games, particularly at the start of the season. 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 COVID designation is obviously good. The other parts also mean that we'll likely be seeing much less of the best players in the league in the first half of the season than normal. The best players usually end up in the playoffs, and are therefore more in need of rest than, say, the guys on the Atlanta Hawks.
It's a bit lame from a fan's perspective, because die-hards will watch every Wednesday night 7 p.m. ET game on their team's slate. But it's also interesting, for the three of us who care about it, as far as it relates to statistical benchmarks for this season.
The stats for the 2020-21 season will be a slightly askew to start because of the 72-game season, and lord knows how everything is going to unfold as far as whether or not teams will play all of those games with coronavirus ever-looming. But how will the MVP discussion go if one candidate has played more games than another? How will games sat out be viewed vs. games missed for regular injuries or even COVID-related absences? How big should the asterisk be if Trae Young puts up ridiculous statistics after not playing since March and being in the lineup every single game because he didn't have to play in the playoffs?
There will be much to consider. But for now, be aware as we embark upon this strange NBA season: the marquee stars we all know and love will not be seen on the court nearly as often as we'd like. Even if it all makes sense why.