Expect more games like the Boston-Milwaukee debacle
Dozens more national TV games are in store with a team playing on zero rest like Boston on Thursday.
On a day that the NBA gathered reporters to discuss a league-commissioned study on load management, TNT was forced to do a little load managing of their own on Thursday night, moving off a marquee Celtics-Bucks matchup in the middle of the game.
The Celtics — playing on the second-night of a back-to-back, the fifth game in seven nights, the night after an overtime game in a different time zone — got obliterated on short rest, surrendering a 25-0 run to their East foe early in the game. At halftime, Boston coach Joe Mazzulla pulled the plug and sat his starters the rest of the way — technically not a violation of the NBA’s player participation policy since all the key players played.
Coming out of a break late in the third quarter, with the score 100-62, the great Ernie Johnson greeted the audience from the Atlanta set to inform viewers that they were leaving the Celtics-Bucks game.
“This game is out of hand, obviously,” Johnson said looking into the camera.
With a couple other blowouts around the association, TNT had little choice but to go to a Knicks-Mavs game .. which itself revealed a 20-point deficit. About 10 minutes later, the broadcast returned to Milwaukee where the Bucks eventually won 135-102.
Earlier in the day, I was among several NBA reporters who attended a Zoom meeting hosted by members of the league office along with consultants who were hired by the NBA to analyze data about load management and injury rates. The findings of that study, depicted in a chart-filled 57-page pdf, was disseminated to all 30 teams earlier in the week. On the call were two of the three epidemiological consultants from a company called IQVIA who crunched the numbers and shared their interpretations of the data.
I’ll take a deeper dive on the study’s findings in a longer post at a later date (ESPN.com’s Tim Bontemps summarized the oddly punchless document for the site). But Thursday’s action cut to the heart of what I saw as a significant shortcoming of the study: they didn’t touch performance. The league was quick to point out that the scope of this commissioned inquiry would be restricted to just injury rates, of which they concluded very little, if anything.
In talking to sports scientists, coaches and front office executives over the years, preventing injuries represents only a piece of the load management puzzle.