Michael Jordan on load management: ‘You’re paid to play 82 games’
There has been an ongoing debate in the NBA for several years now over resting seemingly healthy players just to manage their minutes, and we know which side of it Kawhi Leonard is on. You can probably guess where Michael Jordan stands, but we’ll give you a hint — it’s not with Kawhi.
Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford, who was the head coach for Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets from 2013-2018, said he does not believe in healthy players sitting out one leg of a back-to-back set just for rest. Clifford said he inherited that mentality from Jordan, whose message was quite simple.
“Our guys aren’t used to sitting on the second game of a back-to-back. We’re not sitting guys just to sit,” Clifford said this week, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “For me, my background frankly, it all goes back to expectations. Being with Michael in Charlotte, Michael used to tell them every year, you’re paid to play 82 games.”
Jordan played in all 82 games in nine different seasons during his Hall of Fame career. He never wanted to come off the floor, but load management is similar to a pitch count in baseball. It’s a relatively new concept, and there are plenty of teams and coaches around the NBA that believe in it. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is one of them.
“These guys now wear GPS things during practice, they track all the information. To my knowledge they’re not wearing them in games yet, but at some point that will happen. It’s important information,” Carlisle said. “The professional athlete has got to be trained in a certain way. We look at it very closely… In my view it’s not something you just write off analytic rhetoric. It’s real and it’s important. We try to stay on top of it.”
Carlisle added that managing reps is something that should start at a young age and is a “very serious topic.” New York Knicks coach David Fizdale, who heard some grumbling when he played 19-year-old RJ Barrett 41 minutes in a blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings recently, called the concerns “baffling” and stated younger players can handle it.
Of course, Leonard credited load management for his outstanding performance in the postseason with the Toronto Raptors last year. The Los Angeles Clippers are trying to follow the same formula, and the NBA made it clear this week that they are within their rights to do that. If Jordan owned the team, it probably wouldn’t fly.