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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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