One of the more controversial topics this season I’ve noticed on Mavs twitter surrounds Rick Carlisle choosing to rest his players on the second night of back-to-back games. Many have been adamant as to why the head coach shouldn’t be resting his players so much while others like myself have been in full support of such a move and I’ll explain why.
Most recently it occurred last week when the Mavericks took on the Thunder after losing a thrilling overtime victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home, a game in which they fully had the opportunity to win that game but let it slip through their fingers. The following night they got blown out by the Thunder in Oklahoma City while Carlisle elected to rest all five of his starters. It was the third time he orchestrated such a move and the Mavericks are 2-1 when Carlisle has sat at least 4 of 5 of their starters, all three games has occurred on the road against Western Conference foes. So let’s keep that in mind, 2-1, so it’s not the Mavericks haven’t benefitted from such a coaching decision as they’ve won 2 out of those 3 games while resting their veteran starters and preserving some minutes on those legs.
I get it, fans don’t want to hear about players needing rest and sacrificing wins (although I repeat they’re 2-1 in such games) when they want their team to move up in the standings. But what Mavs fans seems to forget so quickly is that this is an old starting five by all accounts where three of these players (Parsons, Matthews & Williams) all entered the season with question marks surrounding their health. 31,29,27,37,31 those are the ages of the Mavericks starting 5, not exactly spring chicken if you ask me, and that 27 year old is Chandler Parsons who is coming of micro-fracture knee surgery in the offseason and hasn’t looked like the same player all year.
The NBA regular season has turned into a marathon more so nowadays than ever before, teams and coaches want to be fresh heading into the playoffs where player rotations shorten and minutes go up for your star players. For example last season Dirk Nowitzki averaged 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds during the regular season averaging 29.6 minutes per game. In the playoffs against the Houston Rockets he averaged 21.2 points and 10.4 boards while averaging 36.2 minutes per game. Many of us remember that series as a hard one to watch Dirk play because he was such a liability on defense but offensively he certainly held up his part of the bargain.
In the 2014 playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs Dirk admitted that he felt tired at the end of the season as he only averaged 19.1 points per game in 37.6 minutes per game, his worst postseason average since 2006-2007 and the worst of his playoff career. During that 2013-2014 regular season Nowitzki played 80 games, 32.9 minutes per game, during the 2014-2015 regular season he played 77 games, 29.6 minutes per game. You may wonder what’s the big deal that’s only 3 games and a couple minutes difference well if you do the math Dirk played 2632 minutes in 2013-2014 while he played 2280 minutes in 2014-2015, making a grand difference of 352 minutes total, more minutes that a player would log in a full 7 game playoff series.
For anyone out there that has run 5k races or half/full marathons then you may understand just how much a second or 5 or even 10 seconds per minutes can affect your overall time and how strong you’re able to finish. Well the NBA season is no different especially when you have a veteran team or players that have an injury history to worry about.
A player wants to play because that’s their competitive nature, for most of them, but it’s a coach’s job to do what he thinks is best for his players in the long-term. Carlisle knows that the best chance this Mavs team has in the playoffs is if they have as fresh of legs as possible without sacrificing too much as far as regular season wins goes.
Many will argue well the Mavericks don’t have the luxury to be resting players, well while that may be somewhat true this Mavericks team also doesn’t have the luxury of having a young team with young legs that can sustain playing heavy minutes night in and night out. If this Mavericks roster was a younger one I’m sure Rick Carlisle wouldn’t feel the need to rest his players as much as he does or be as cautious with them if they weren’t coming off serious injuries. But that’s not the case and Carlisle is doing wonders with this Mavericks team to have them at 23-19 and tied for fifth in the Western Conference with the Memphis Grizzlies. I personally didn’t see the Mavs being above .500 through the first half of the season, I expected this team to struggle early on but instead they got off to an early fast start much to my delight.
We may not see the benefits of players being rested and sat out of certain games in the short-term but certainly in the long-term. Rick Carlisle is one of the top 2 or 3 head coaches in the NBA, no sense in doubting his coaching decisions now.