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What the NBA’s new rest rule would mean for the Spurs

Ironically, it’s not as much as you think, and it might even have a reverse effect for the Spurs.

San Antonio Spurs v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

In its ongoing effort to combat “resting” and “player management”, the NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to approve a new rule today that will prevent teams from resting more than one healthy star player during nationally televised games and games related to the in-season tournament. Teams that break this policy will incur increasing fines, beginning with $100,000 for the first offense, $250,000 for the second offense, and $1 million more than the previous penalty for each additional fine. (The Spurs should demand $150,000 back from the league from David Stern’s fine of $250,000 in 2012.)

Bobby Marks of ESPN has a great breakdown of all the ins and outs of the rule, and there is more to it than just which games stars can be rested (and how many). When resting star players, teams must also be cognizant of balancing “rest” games between home and away games, no unnecessary long-term shutdowns or purposefully reducing roles, and healthy, resting players must remain visible to the fans (so no hanging out in a suite or staying at home, which was already a rule, it’s just being re-emphasized). Marks’ piece is very informative and answers many questions, so be sure to check it out.

However, there is a catch to all this. In this instance, the NBA is defining a “star” player as anyone who has made the All-Star game or an All-NBA team in any of the three previous seasons, so guess what? That means this rule doesn’t apply to the Spurs (and four other teams) whatsoever since they currently don’t have a single player on the squad who fits that definition. (Point #4 of Marks’ piece lists out the 49 players players who fit the definition of a star. Unsurprisingly, the Clippers of have become the poster child for this issue with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.)

This could be good or bad news for Spurs fans, depending on how you choose to look at it. As a rookie, Victor Wembanyama is immune to these rules, so depending on how much “player management” they feel he needs, the Spurs will be free to rest him any time, even during their 18 nationally televised games this season (although I’m sure it will bring some frowns from the league and lead to future rule enhancements if they do it too much).

Then there’s another recent rule that was passed meant to combat resting, which is players must appear in at least 65 games to be eligible for most NBA awards or All-NBA teams, but both good and bad news is that does not include Rookie of the Year or the All-Rookie teams. So on one hand, the Spurs won’t be forced to play him 65 games for him to be eligible for ROY, but that also means they could play him in something like 50 games (although voters may take it into account, especially if missed games are more related to rest than an actual injury).

Another thing to take into account is while the Spurs aren’t impacted from this rule right now, that could change. Should any of their players make the 2024 All-Star game (Wemby and Devin Vassell would be two players to watch), they would then fit the definition of an All-Star, and the rule would then kick in at the return from the All-Star break, not next season. Also, there are more Spurs who could still be impacted by the 65-game policy. Players like Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan could end up being candidates for Most Improved Player, or if one of them ends up accepting a sixth-man role, that award could be up for grabs as well, so they would need to play in 65 games.

The bottom line is even though the Spurs aren’t in any danger of being fined for resting players in the immediate future, it would still be in their best interest to start playing their best players together as much as possible, especially if the goal is to start rising back up the ranks. As cautious as they may want to be with Wemby, they must also keep him happy, so if he wants to play in as many games as possible when there is no medical reason to hold him out, they should let him play.

He is helping bring fans back to the games after a couple years of down attendance, and if they truly have a goal of building a new arena downtown in the next 10 years, they need to show they can keep it filled, and not over-resting their best players would be a good place to start.