Nothing says lack of integrity of the game like the end of the NBA season. When we’re young, if we are lucky enough to play sports we are taught to “play to the whistle” to “keep pushing until the end of the game”. These are sentiments I was raised on, and sentiments I wholeheartedly agree with. Not only is it beneficial for young athletes to ascribe to that way of thinking for themselves, but nothing engenders teammates to one another more than knowing someone has your back no matter what, whether you’re up ten points or down ten points.
While we see players getting rest for postseason runs in other sports (the NFL is notorious for the sixteenth game often being a throwaway for contending teams with home-field wrapped up) no one seems to do it with a sense of entitlement like the NBA does. A few examples come to mind:
Fresh off a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Lebron James and a couple teammates head to Miami before their game against the Heat the following day. Are they there to get a bit more rest, maybe get some treatment for late-season ailments before they finish wrapping up the #1 seed? Nope. They go out to a club, taking in the South Beach nightlife. Lebron sits out the following game, an overtime loss to the Heat, with a “calf injury”.
The Brooklyn Nets with literally nothing left to play for (their pick is going to the Celtics) are sitting six players in a game against the Bulls tonight. This would be no big deal, except the aforementioned Heat need Chicago or the Indiana Pacers to lose tonight to even make the playoffs. Was there a good chance the Bulls were going to win tonight anyway, even against a full-strength Nets team? Sure. Is it a dick move to hand the Bulls a playoff berth like that? Sure is.
I get it, times change. We are no longer in an era where all 82 regular season NBA games matter. We are no longer in an era of the hyper-competitive alpha dogs that don’t want to come out, under any circumstances, the Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants of those bygone eras. Maybe dinosaurs like me need to get with the program, see the writing on the wall and just accept the new status quo, the fact that the individuals and their brand are more important than the team and the fans. I could do that, but instead, I prefer to take my viewing dollars elsewhere. This is a league run by the players, a league that apparently answers to Lebron James more than it does Adam Silver. A league that will preen and posture all it wants, but will acquiesce to the will of the players, especially the star players, even if that means alienating portions of its fan base.
No thanks, it’s not for me. When the NBA decides to restore some of its integrity, I’ll consider coming back. Until then, I can’t be bothered.