Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s decision to sit his four best players because they needed rest near the end of a long road trip got NBA analyst (and former NBA head coach) Jeff Van Gundy riled up. Van Gundy, calling the game with the equally disappointed Mark Jackson, thought the result was a primetime travesty for the NBA — what everybody on screen kept calling a “colossal disappointment.” Van Gundy didn’t direct his ire at Kerr directly — as a former coach, he understands Kerr’s desire to rest his players to ensure a more productive future. Van Gundy instead ripped the NBA, which allows this to happen without penalty, he said. Van Gundy was an advocate for the bereft fans, saying:
“Once again the fans are told, you don’t matter. Pay us up front, we’ll take your money and then we’ll give you whatever product we want to.”
That “once again” is especially pointed. But Van Gundy doesn’t just think Kerr’s move “devalues” the fans, as he said. Van Gundy said it devalues the entire regular season, making a mockery of the 82 game preparation for the playoffs. In admitting the NBA is, for elite teams, all about the playoffs, Van Gundy exposed a weakness in the NBA product that turns off too many fans — the regular season has a bearing on home court advantage, but the stakes just aren’t that high. No team gets relegated (booted out) as happens in Premier League soccer, for instance. Abject failures during the NBA regular season are instead rewarded with high draft picks. Van Gundy, with Kerr’s impetus, illustrates a challenge NBA commissioner Adam Silver will try to solve.