Back in 2014, when the Spurs were contending for a championship, Gregg Popovich angered the NBA establishment by resting healthy players for a nationally televised game. It was a big deal, but Pop did it that night and he’s done it since. In fact, he’s doing it Saturday night!
INJURY REPORT - Manu Ginobili & Tony Parker (rest) and Danny Green (left quad strain) are out for tonight's Spurs-Pelicans game.— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 29, 2016
Judging by the Spurs success, it does seem to work and as John Schuhmann writes Saturday, it’s based on analytics, performance data.
That of course is interesting in light of the Nets’ decision to rest Brook Lopez Saturday vs. the Bucks ... Lopez didn’t even travel... and who made the decision. Sean Marks was assistant coach and assistant GM in San Antonio. It’s not a one time thing, either. We’re told that Lopez probably won’t play in any back-to-back’s this season.
Schuhmann notes that in his interview with Marks in September, the new Nets GM told NBA.com that some of the new technology and information that teams use can really help in determining how much load can and should be put on players over the course of a season.
"I think what's interesting is what do the numbers tell you about breaking up the season," Marks told Schuhmann. "Obviously, in San Antonio, we had an older group of guys. They needed rest. They needed recovery. How many minutes do they play? When should their minutes come and in what games should they play? How should they be treated? It's a constant debate, but do the numbers and analytics match up with what [Gregg Popovich] and the coaches' feel was?"
Popovich of course was dealing with three 30+ players in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, but as Kenny Atkinson noted of Lopez on Wednesday, “He's got some miles on him." Lopez has had, of course, had multiple foot surgeries and has missed 150 games, two seasons worth, as a result. He may not be as old as Duncan, but Atkinson isn’t far enough when he notes Lopez has “some miles.”
The Nets have prioritized the sports science aspect of basketball operations under Marks, organizing things under performance, analytics, medicine, etc. Most of the nearly 30 new people he’s hired have been placed in those areas (including a three-year veteran of the Spurs analytics department.) The Nets have also strengthened their relationship with the Hospital for Special Surgery. It’s ALL about getting the most out of players.
it should also be noted that no team has a lighter back-to-back schedule than the Nets. They have the fewest back-to-back’s, with 14 and as Schuhmann again noted, they have a league-low seven games vs. teams on the second night of a back-to-back this season. Every other team has at least 11 and four teams -- Boston, Cleveland, Memphis and Miami -- have three times as many (21 )as the Nets.
Could there be an underlying issue with his surgically repaired foot? He did spend a few weeks in a small walking boot back in June as a precaution after a bout with plantar fasciitis, which a team insider called a minor issue.
It hardly seems like a strategy to improve his trade value, either. Atkinson did say Wednesday that his limited minutes were part of “a long-term approach to how we're going to build him up in terms of minutes as the season goes on.”
So the Nets will rely on a center rotation Saturday of Justin Hamilton, Trevor Booker and probably Anthony Bennett. They will go small. It will be interesting.