How NBA load management restriction could affect Sixers -- and coach who popularized it

Gina Mizell, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

With NBA training camps looming, news surfaced from multiple reports Monday that the league’s board of governors is expected to pass stricter guidelines about resting players for national television games, or resting two stars — defined as players who have been named to an All-Star or All-NBA team in the past three seasons — in the same game.

In other words, the NBA is attempting to cut back on load management.

This impacts every team, with fines reported to start at $100,000 for the first violation and surpassing $1 million on the third offense. Yet it’s interesting to examine this shift specifically through the 76ers’ lens.

The origins of the “load management” terminology can be linked back to new Sixers coach Nick Nurse, whose Toronto Raptors extensively used that strategy with former superstar Kawhi Leonard. And the Sixers boast two of the league’s most recognizable names — at least for however long James Harden remains on the roster — who have also struggled with injuries and/or aging in recent seasons, which are both reasons for regular-season rest.

Here’s a three-pronged look at how the change could affect the Sixers:

Nick Nurse


One could argue that legendary San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich invented the concept of load management, resting stars such as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli as they aged. In 2012, the Spurs were fined when those three players, plus Danny Green, all sat out for a national TV game against the Miami Heat.

But Nurse’s Raptors began using the “load management” phrase — which is now essentially universally adopted across the league — to describe why Leonard would regularly sit out games. He was coming off a serious quadriceps injury that was at the center of his messy departure from, coincidentally, the Spurs. So the Raptors’ medical and training staffs created a detailed plan that kept him fresh for the playoff run to the 2019 NBA title. That worked, and the Raptors even defeated the Sixers in the historic four-bounce game along the way.

It’s reasonable to wonder how Nurse could apply that experience to this Sixers’ roster, which leads to …

Joel Embiid


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