NBA's Resting Players Trend and the Sports Bettor

Growing up in Southern California during the 1980s, I had a front row seat to the excitement created by the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers. Tune into a game at any point in the season and the actors were always the same.

The golden voice of Chick Hearn on the game call, Coach Pat Riley in a finely tailored suit, and a starting lineup of Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Scott, and Cooper. The same starting five took the floor for ALL 82 games.

Even the big man in the center, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who was in his sixties by that time, played each and every game. Alright, so maybe Kareem wasn't in his sixties, but the guy was old, and he didn't want a night off (I think).

What Does Resting Players Mean?

Resting players is exactly what it sounds like - Keeping a player (or players) from playing a game in order to let them rest for a period of time.

Resting players late in the season is not an uncommon practice in sports. Good teams that have secured their playoff spot, bad teams giving the up and comers a bit more floor time, and sorry teams looking to help their lottery chances by tanking a few down the stretch (allegedly) were to be expected.

If you're a sports bettor, you watched for those scenarios and adjusted accordingly.

The Spurs Violate League Policy

Then on April 9, 2012, San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich did what only could amount to putting the fix in. That day the Spurs "Big Three" didn't even make the trip to Salt Lake City for their game with the Utah Jazz. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all stayed back home due to playing the night before against Utah. Even though the Spurs were just percentage points ahead of Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference, Popovich decided to essentially give the game to the Jazz. Now of course it took the Jazz, legitimately short-handed due to injuries, to the fourth quarter to win it but you have to think the result would have been different if the Spurs varsity team actually played.

The NBA fined the team $250,000 stating, "The Spurs' actions were in violation of a league policy, reviewed with the NBA Board of Governors in 2010, against resting players in a manner contrary to the best interests of the NBA."

The fine didn't have the desired effect, as resting players is a big trend now occurring in the NBA. Teams have never been more worried about progressive fatigue and the mental grind of playing 82 games. They have done an excellent job linking together injuries, fatigue, and the NBA's absurd travel schedule as justification for their actions. Rest is perfectly reasonable given each player is an investment costing millions of dollars - but what is the price? Who gets the short end of the stick?

The Result of Resting Players

The Fans are cheated. While I'm sure many Jazz fans are happy for the result as they cling hope to their team still making the playoffs you also have to think there was a contingent that paid their hard earned money to see the real Spurs in action. What about the Spurs fans hoping their team gets the top spot in the playoffs?

The entire thing sort of makes a mockery of the league and its playoff race. It's one thing to rest players when you have everything wrapped up, but it's quite another when you're still playing for the top seed, which obviously means home court advantage throughout the playoffs. What about the teams fighting with the Jazz to make the playoffs?

Most importantly, this practice of resting star players has impacted the sports bettors. A majority of these "sitting" decisions are being made minutes before tipoff. NBA bettors have been forced to follow suit, and lay down bets at the very last minute. Playing NBA parlays has become a crap shoot. Unless all of the games on your ticket tipoff at the same time, you're taking a calculated risk. There is nothing more deflating then to have the last team in a good size parlay, give their star the night off.

In the daily fantasy sports world, it's known as getting "Popped", in recognition of the man who started it all. This occurs when you look in on your fantasy lineups only to see a big goose egg next to one of the players. Later, when you learn that it was a coach's decision to give said player some rest, you've been "Popped". It's usually followed by a potent mix of emotions consisting of anger and frustration.


My advice when it comes to wagering on the NBA, stick to betting totals during the regular season. Then when the post season arrives, you can resume normal wagering habits. Everyone should be well rested by then.