THE COUCH SLOUCH

NBA should take a break from relying on 'load management'

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Let's talk load management!

("Load management" is one of those newfangled terms – like "cancel culture" and "pain point" and "deep state" and "escape room" and "Adam Sandler" – with which Couch Slouch finds little joy in encountering.)

The NBA has been swept away by load management mania. Suddenly, its players – in particular its best players – are fragile art pieces that must be handled lovingly and delicately. You watch their minutes, you rest their bodies, you manage their load.

Oh, please.

If I adhered to self-load management, I wouldn't even be writing these words; December is a five-column month and I'd definitely take a week off in November to relax my typing fingers.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard recently sat out consecutive national TV games, one week apart, with the league's blessing/approval.

(Remember, as a kid, when you had to bring a doctor's note to school when missing class? NBA players now need a permission note from the league office when resting while healthy.)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban loves load management, citing it as "the best thing to ever happen to the league." He points to the wisdom of keeping players in top shape longer, making sure they are available when the games count most in the postseason.

"The dumb thing," Cuban says, "would be to ignore the science."

No, the dumb thing would be to ignore the customers.

If I understand this correctly – and I usually do – NBA players are paid, on the average, $7.6 million a year, a large reason a family of four must Airbnb its guest room if it wants to afford going to a game, and then when you get there, the marquee players might be sitting out due to load management?

HOW STUPID DO WE LOOK?

If professional sports franchises now utilize "dynamic pricing" – another dastardly newfangled term in which ticket costs are increased when a more attractive team is in town – then shouldn't they offer a rebate when buying seats to a game in which superstars sit out?

To ease the labor load on its overworked players, the NBA, of course, could shorten its season or stop scheduling back-to-back games, which is like asking Lincoln Continental to limit its line of cars and stop scheduling Matthew McConaughey to sell them. Money is as money does, and nobody in the NBA family – owners, players, TV partners – wants to grab a smaller piece of the American pie.

Anyhow, you think Wilt Chamberlain ever considered load management?

(Oh, maybe off the court. Then again, maybe not.)

In the 1961-62 NBA season, Chamberlain played all 82 games, averaging 48.5 minutes a game. Note: NBA games are 48 regulation minutes in duration. Including overtime, he missed a total of eight minutes all season – this occurred when he ran out to a pharmacy in Boston during the third quarter of a game to purchase a personal item.

The heavy load did not wear down Wilt: He averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds that season.

How about Gordie Howe? The NHL legend never took a load management day as a 52-year-old for the Hartford Whalers, playing in all 80 games in the 1979-80 season.

Let's talk theater for a moment. Actors get one day off a week, with added afternoon performances Wednesdays and Sundays; that's eight shows every seven days. Can you imagine Joel Embiid playing a 1 p.m. game for the Philadelphia 76ers, then coming back that night for an 8 p.m. tipoff?

You think Olivier took off matinees when he was playing Hamlet at the Old Vic?

"Due to load management, the role of Hamlet usually played by Laurence Olivier will be performed tonight by Spoons McCallahan."

By the way, what's the load management situation for Chinese workers who produce basketball shoes for the NBA via Nike? Do they get one day off a week to refresh mind and body, and keep them ready for the holiday-shopping-season rush?

Come to think of it, load management might've saved my first marriage.

Ask The Slouch

Q. The Cincinnati Bengals are third in the NFL in red-zone defense, yet they have the league's worst record. Does that mean the teams that have beaten them are all bad in the red zone? (Joe Zaccardo; Amsterdam, N.Y.)

A. No, it means statistics are stupid.

Q. If Myles Garrett had hit Mason Rudolph with the crown of the helmet, would he also have been assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty? (Tom Schreck; Davenport, Wash.)

A. I have a call into Dean Blandino on this one.

Q. Am I to understand that you honestly believe the Houston Astros were stealing signs during your second marriage? (Mark Whitley; Indianapolis)

A. It actually cost me my second marriage, which was not affected by load management.

Q. Is it a quid pro quo impeachable offense if POTUS offers a Megan Rapinoe trading card to the Brazilian president in exchange for an old Pele trading card? (Bill Rote; Springfield, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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