Zion Williamson was the #1 pick of the New Orleans Pelicans. But he's out with injury - for now, and with so much excitement around him, the Pels are likely to be cautious about his play this season. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Shared with TSD via The Undefeated)

“Load management” is what it’s called now in the NBA. Before that it was called “minutes restriction” or “inactive reserve.”

And before the concept got jargonized by the NBA, you and I would simply call it “rest.” But whatever it’s called, the NBA wants to make sure players get enough of it during the season.

Lee Eric Smith

It’s not new, though it’s now more accepted than before. A few years ago, fans howled when LeBron James sat out during his only visit to Memphis. It’s understandable: you pay your money, you want to see the stars play. They get paid millions to play, they should play, right?

Except . . . they get paid millions to play. NBA player salaries are now at unprecedented levels – and no one can blame players or their teams for protecting their bodies.

It’s not like it was 25 years ago when Michael Jordan was ridiculously underpaid at $4 million a year. It’s not chump change, but if he got hurt playing tired, it would be easier to swallow than, say, modern superstar Stephen Curry, who will be paid $40 million this season while recovering from a broken hand.   

Life in the NBA is sweet, but for players it’s also taxing – aside from racing around the floor and repeatedly crashing into other players (in games and practice), there’s the travel, the late-night hotel check-ins and whatever players do in their private time. It’s a lot.

And that’s not even counting the mileage on a players body before they even get to the NBA. When you add in the time many young players like Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant spend playing AAU and college hoops, you start to see why the Grizzlies let him rest in the summer league and have a plan to keep his body from breaking down over his first-ever 82-game season.

Recently, the NBA pitched some ideas to build rest time into the schedule – everything from fewer games (78) to a mid-season tournament that the league hopes would also boost viewership during the NBA’s sleepy winter months. Finding players and fans who would care about such a thing is a topic for another column.

Both the NBA and the players union can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement  in 2022. “Load management”  – or whatever they call it – will be a key topic of negotiation.

Rest, assured.

GRIND ON . . .