Anthony Edwards, Kawhi Leonard and the NBA’s Load Management Problem

In recent seasons, “load management” in the NBA has become a trend. What is load management? It was what the Philadelphia 76ers famously termed their resting of superstar center Joel Embiid during the 2017-18 season. Injuries had prevented him from consistently seeing the court before that, so “load management” was the Sixers’ way of making sure he wasn’t overplaying and putting himself in further harm’s way.

But the poster-child of load management is undoubtedly Kawhi Leonard. He’s the elite forward for the Los Angeles Clippers. Since joining Los Angeles, however, he’s sat out several games due to the infamous load management. Kawhi’s reputation is now one of clutch play, defensive mastery– and resting in big games.

Fans began to grow tired of the load management trend when it started spreading around the league. In an association where we once saw players play through the most nagging injuries imaginable, we now see several stars sitting on the bench in big games because the team wants them healthy for the playoffs. This is leaving countless fans disappointed, having spent money on NBA tickets only to see their favorite players not play.

The Anthony Edwards Load Management Solution

Recently, it hasn’t been just fans that are speaking out against the NBA’s load management problem. Finally, current and former players themselves are vocalizing their concerns with the trend. Charles Barkley, NBA Hall-of-Famer and currently an analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA, is a prominent voice in the community who has gone on record calling the current players “soft” for their participation in load management.

But possibly the most consequential voice in recent weeks is that of Anthony Edwards, the rising star-shooting guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After being selected as an All-Star for the first time in his career, he said this during the All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah:

“All the guys sitting, resting. That’s the only thing I probably don’t like. Just play, man. If you 80%, you gotta play. I don’t like all the sitting, missing games stuff. These people might have enough money to come to one game. And that might be the game they come to and you sitting out.”

A player of Edwards’ caliber speaking out about the load management issue is getting considerably more eyes than those of fans would. With the NBA’s own player speaking his piece on the problem, it validates the opposition to the trend and is likely to fuel further discourse on the subject.

In fact, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is already responding to the heat. He discussed methods the league might consider to discourage load management, including attaching a minimum-games-played mandate to season awards like MVP or Defensive Player of the Year.

Anthony Edwards was absolutely right to come out about this issue, and I’m excited by the commissioner’s swift response. I agree with every fan who has vocalized their displeasure with the load management trend. This problem, if not corrected by the association, could signal an era of load management that would seriously undermine the NBA’s image.

These players have access to state-of-the-art facilities. They are surrounded by several methods for recovery and are assisted by team nutritionists and chefs. They are cared for by the best medical and training personnel in the world. On top of it all, they make millions of dollars playing a sport they love. It’s unacceptable for them to sit while we, the fans, pay.


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