The NBA board of governors unanimously voted Wednesday to approve tougher resting policy rules and punishments for star players who sit out games — including those on national TV and in-season tournaments — as well as multiple All-Stars sitting out together for regular-season games.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Player Participation Policy is something that the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and individual players and teams all want “to return to that principle that this is an 82-game league.”
The rule would ultimately give the league office authority for greater oversight over discipline for missed games and an ability to fine teams more than $1 million for each instance of violating resting rules, sources told ESPN.
As the league negotiates a new media rights deal, Silver has been determined to increase player participation. The league’s goal is to strengthen the initial player resting policies that were adopted in the 2017-18 season and new rules that mandate players participate in 65 regular-season games to be eligible for postseason awards.
“I think we’ll state this principle, see how teams react and see if more needs to be done,” Silver said following the meeting at the St. Regis New York. “But I think, most importantly, there’s a sense from all the different constituent groups in the league that this is ultimately about the fans and that we’ve taken this too far.
“I mean, this is an acknowledgement that it’s gotten away from us a bit, particularly I think when you see young, healthy players who are resting. It becomes maybe even more notion of stature around the league as opposed to absolute needed rest — or it’s just part of being an NBA player that you rest on certain days — and that’s what we’re trying to move away from.”
The NBA is defining a star player as someone who has made the All-Star or All-NBA teams in any of the three previous seasons.
In total, 25 teams and 50 players (nearly 11% of the league) are impacted by the new rules. Fifteen teams have multiple players who were named All-NBA or to the All-Star Game in the previous three seasons. The list of impacted players could potentially change after the 2024 NBA All-Star Game.
The NBA will incorporate a fines system for teams that begins with $100,000 for first offenses, $250,000 for second offenses and $1 million more than the previous penalty for each additional fine, sources said.
Silver said the league will continue to study the data and science of injuries and how much rest is needed.
“We’re trying to deal with some of the most egregious examples,” Silver said. “Where multiple star players, for example, healthy, healthy all out on the same night. We’re letting down the fans, we’re letting down our partners by doing that.
“We’re stating a principle in terms of an 82-game league and saying let’s all work together. And I think I thought the best news coming out of this policy, whether it was with the Players Association, individual players or with our teams over the last two days, everyone is acknowledging this is an issue and it’s an issue for the fans. So the adoption of the policy was unanimous.”
A league memo about the changes describes these areas of the new policy. Enforcement will be based on league office investigations, which will include independent medical reviews.
Teams must manage their roster to ensure that no more than one star player is unavailable for the same game. For example, the Boston Celtics would not be allowed to rest both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in the same game unless they are both injured.
Teams must ensure that star players are available for nationally televised and in-season tournament games.
Teams must refrain from any long-term shutdown — or near shutdown — when a star player stops participating in games or plays in a materially reduced role in circumstances affecting the integrity of the game. Under that scenario, the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers would’ve been investigated by the league after shutting down Bradley Beal (10 games) and Damian Lillard (11), respectively, at the end of last season.
Teams must maintain a balance between the number of one-game absences for a star player in home games and road games — with a preference for those absences to happen in home games.
Teams must ensure that healthy players resting for a game are present and visible to fans.
The NBA, however, has detailed several exceptions by which a team can seek approval for a star player to miss back-to-back games.
The NBA will allow preapproved designated back-to-back allowances for players who are 35 years old on opening night or have career workloads of 34,000 regular-season minutes or 1,000 regular-season and playoff games combined, sources said.
If a team feels that a star player is unable to play in back-to-back games, it must provide to the NBA written information at least one week prior explaining why the player’s participation should be limited.
The league has also said that a team can seek approval for a star player to be unavailable for one end of a back-to-back based on the player’s prior or unusual injury history.
Other exceptions include: multigame absences for a bona fide injury; personal reasons; rare and unusual circumstances; roster management of unavailable star players; and end-of-season flexibility.
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and Bobby Marks contributed to this report.