Is ‘load management’ to blame for the NBA’s lagging TV ratings?


Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Washington Wizards guard Isaac Bonga (17) battle for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Washington. The Clippers won 135-119. | Nick Wass, Associated Press

Preemptive rest is one of the sport’s most heavily discussed and least understood topics.

SALT LAKE CITY — Last season in Toronto, NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard became the face of “load management” — a euphemism for preemptive rest. He played only 60 of 82 regular season games. Not because he was injured in the traditional sense — read: unable to play — but given his injury history, Toronto thought it wise to avoid overexertion. So he didn’t play in any back-to-back games and strategically avoided others to stay fresh and healthy for the postseason. He rewarded Toronto with its first NBA title.

But the approach has invited controversy, with accusations of laziness levied against players who make tens of millions yet refuse to play every game. It ignited once again this week, starting with LeBron James. When asked about his approach to load management, he told reporters if he’s healthy, he’ll play. Clippers coach Doc Rivers responded with a shot at James and the Lakers: “It’s our philosophy. I don’t know what theirs are,” he said. “I think theirs is whatever LeBron says it is, to be honest.”

Amid lagging ratings for nationally televised NBA games, load management seems like an easy culprit to blame — at least in part — for the problems. Recent numbers show the NBA’s cable ratings down 22% on TNT and 19% on ESPN compared to last season — and ratings were already down last season.

“I’m never going to agree on ‘Load Management’. It always worked when the greatest players who ever played the game played as much as possible, and they had bad shoes and didn’t have the best doctors in the world like they do today,” NBA legend Charles Barkley said during an interview on Fox Sports Radio. “These guys don’t have any loyalty to a team or a city and it’s why ratings are down.”

The reality is more complicated. Perhaps load management has turned off some fans, but multiple other factors help explain the NBA’s ratings troubles.

One is luck. Many of the league’s superstars are/have been injured this season, from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, to Zion Williamson in New Orleans, to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for Golden State. So when their teams have played on national TV, viewers have been less likely to watch.

Another is the general trend of cable cord-cutting. The NBA has long been known to court the 18-34 demographic — a group that’s ditching cable faster than any other. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes this is the principal driver of the ratings decline.

“Ratings are down because all of our national broadcasts are exclusively available on cable, which is losing …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News


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