A scene that angers NBA fans unfolded Wednesday night in Memphis when the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t even bring All-Stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the trip to play the Grizzlies.
While the absence of the Cavs’ Big 3 obviously increased the Grizzlies’ chances of winning, this also was the defending NBA champions’ lone visit to Memphis.
“Look, on the one hand it seems unfair to the Memphis fans, but on the other hand the science is all there that says guys need rest,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “The one thing worse than a visiting team not getting to see a star player is the home team’s fans missing a lot of games from that star player.
“As we get more scientifically driven you’ll see teams trying to play guys fewer minutes and fewer games because it protects their body. If you protect a guy’s body fans get to see them in more games overall.”
While it’s obviously a raw deal for fans who purchased tickets months in advance, Cuban tried to convince his listeners that the NBA fan experience is ultimately most important.
“I say it all the time, fans don’t typically remember jump shots, dunks or scores,” Cuban said. “They remember their experience and who they were with.
“They’ll say they were there, but they’ll remember they were there with their dad or their mom or brother or sister first.”
As a parting shot, Cuban said of resting healthy players: “You try to make it so if you’re going to rest a guy, it’s on the road. You take care of your home fans first.”
No timetable for Dirk
The Mavs simply don’t know when forward Dirk Nowitzki will be able to join a full-scale practice session.
“My understanding is that he’s doing better, but it’s going slowly,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s been moving gradually, but the needle is inching — it’s not taking quantum leaps.”
Nowitzki, who has a strained right Achilles, hasn’t played since Nov. 23 against the Los Angeles Clippers and has played in only five of the Mavs’ 25 games. Carlisle said Nowitzki’s plight “is no situation to mess around with” and that the Mavs are treating him with kid’s gloves.
“Signs are positives, and [head athletic trainer] Casey Smith and Dr. [Daniel] Worrel have spent a lot of time analyzing this, working through it,” Carlisle said. “He’s had some diagnostic testing done the last couple of weeks that show that there has been an improvement since the early stages, which is great news, and so we’re moving toward some ultimate good news at some point, but I don’t know when that is.
“I’m really reluctant to talk enthusiastically about how close we’re getting because I think that puts undue pressure on a guy that has been playing hurt his entire career and deserves a chance to work through this the right way.”