NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to the league's board of governors Monday, calling the way teams are choosing to rest starters in some games "an extremely significant issue for our league" and pressing owners to be more involved in the decision-making process.
Silver also told the owners that the matter will be discussed at league meetings next month after nationally televised games on back-to-back Saturday nights were diluted by decisions to rest star players.
"Decisions of this kind … can affect fans and business partners, impact our reputation and damage the perception of our game," Silver wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press. "With so much at stake, it is simply not acceptable for governors to be uninvolved or to defer decision-making authority on these matters to others in their organizations."
ESPN.com first reported the contents of the memo.
The rest issue has been an even hotter-than-usual talking point in the NBA of late with teams like Golden State and Cleveland—the last two NBA champions—electing to rest superstars in recent nationally televised games. Fans have complained on some occasions that they have paid a premium price to see stars play, then arrived at arenas only to find that those players are getting the game off.
Superstar LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, for instance, has sat out games for rest against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis in each of the past three seasons.
It also can't sit well with the networks that paid $24 billion to the NBA in the latest television contract negotiations.
"Please also be reminded that under current league rules teams are required to provide notice to the league office, their opponent and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest," Silver wrote. "Failure to abide by these rules will result in significant penalties."
The Warriors chose to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala for a nationally televised game against San Antonio on March 11. Coach Steve Kerr said he did it in response to a grueling stretch of the schedule that included eight games in eight different cities in 13 days.
"It's my call, and it's the right thing to do in terms of the way the season is playing out and the way the minutes have gone and (Kevin Durant's) injury," Kerr said when he announced the decision after a game against Minnesota the previous night. "It's the right thing to do, so we're doing it."
James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love rested for Cleveland against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, though Irving and Love were both dealing with recent injuries.
It is not a new issue, though Silver noted that its frequency has escalated this season.
San Antonio was fined $250,000 by then-NBA commissioner David Stern in the 2012-13 season when coach Gregg Popovich sent Danny Green, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili home for rest on Nov. 29, 2012, rather than having them play Miami in the final game of a six-game road trip.
Stern said the fine was due to a litany of transgressions, but primarily because San Antonio did not alert the league or media of the players' unavailability prior to the game. Since then, the Spurs have announced in advance which players will rest.
Silver has said the league is very sensitive to players needing as much rest as possible to perform at their best and avoid injury. The league will start the regular season earlier next year so it can reduce the number of back-to-backs and stretches of four games in five nights that teams face.