Adam Silver is concerned by what he sees as “a trend” of the NBA’s best players spending too much time on the sideline.
NBA commissioner Silver was speaking at a news conference following a two-day meeting with the league’s board of governors.
Last year’s NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was one of 11 players to play every game in the shortened 72-game 2020-21 regular season.
But only five players are on course to complete the full 82 games this year – and none of them could be considered superstars.
While Jokic has still played a good number in 73, MVP rivals Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been limited to 66 and 65 games respectively.
Stephen Curry has played in 64, Luka Doncic and James Harden in 63, LeBron James in 56, Kevin Durant in 53 and Kyrie Irving, chiefly due to the vaccine protocol that was in place in New York for much of the season, in 27.
Harden (37.2 minutes), James (also 37.2), Irving (37.5) and Durant (37.1) have at least seen plenty of time on the floor when they have been available, although the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers have spent much of the season hovering around the play-in line.
While Silver acknowledged injuries were a factor, he suggested this sort of motivation was key to seeing the best of the league’s stars.
Antetokounmpo (32.9 this year) has long played limited minutes in the regular season, while Kawhi Leonard – prior to the injury that has kept him out of this season – was allowed regular periods of rest with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers in order to prepare for the playoffs.
“The greater concern to me is a trend of star players not participating in a full complement of games,” Silver said.
“I think that’s something we, together with the Players Association, need to address. I’m not standing here saying I have a great solution.
“Part of the issue is injuries. One of the things we have focused on at the league office and we had begun to spend a lot of time on pre-pandemic [is]: are there things we can do in terms of sharing information, resources around the league to improve best practices, rehabilitation?
“The other way we can get at it, in terms of player participation, is creating other incentives.
“The play-in tournament, I thought, was a beginning of creating renewed incentives for teams to remain competitive and be fighting for playoff position. It might be through in-season tournaments and changes in format where we can get at it.”