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Steve Kerr’s answer to reduce players missing games: 72-game season

Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 19: Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr looks on during the first half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Stephen Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors make one trip to Cleveland this season, and that was Friday night. It was also the second night of a back-to-back for the Warriors (who had lost the night before in Boston) on the final night of a five-game road trip.

All of which prompted coach Steve Kerr to rest Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the other stars Cavs fans had paid to see, only Jordan Poole played among the regular Warriors starters. While the shorthanded Warriors went on to get the win anyway, Kerr resting his stars sparked a conversation that has been bubbling up around the league in a season where many stars are missing time for rest and not just injuries.

“I feel terrible for fans who buy tickets expecting to see someone play and they don’t get to see that person play,” Kerr said, via the Associated Press. “It’s a brutal part of the business. It’s why I’m going to continue to advocate for 72-game seasons...

“You take 10 games off the schedule, it always feels like with 10 games left in the year everybody’s sort of had it anyways. That creates enough rest where we don’t have to have some of these crazy situations. I think you’d see way fewer games missed from players.”

Just days before, Stan Van Gundy had commented on the missed game trend on Twitter — and Kevin Durant was having fun with him.

The poster child for this may be the Los Angeles Clippers, a team with a football-sized training staff that still sees stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George miss so much time the squad can’t get any kind of rhythm and move up the standings. Fans will harken back to players a couple of decades ago who played through these kinds of injuries, but Kerr said the team’s knowledge about their players’ health has changed since then.

“I know it’s a big topic around the league. We have so much more data. So much more awareness of players’ vulnerability, Kerr said. “It’s proven that if guys are banged up, back-to-backs, players are much more likely to get injured and miss more games and that’s why you’re seeing it league wide. Everybody is being cautious when a guy is banged up. You’re just playing the long game.”

Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff echoed those ideas.

“You look at these guys and they’re playing 15 years to some guys 20 years,” he said. “So it’s a trade off of five games a season and you get five more years of these guys playing. So I think in the long run, the fans get their money’s worth because guys do get to extend their career and play more years.

“I know from our standpoint where you only get to see a team once a year. I know that can be frustrating for fans if those guys don’t play but I do think for the greater good of the game, getting these superstars and elite players for multiple years and multiple more seasons, I think is only good for the game.”

While the idea of reducing games gets discussed, the financial considerations — at the gate, with regional television partners — make that a nearly impossible sell. Adam Silver is trying to increase interest in the regular season with a mid-season tournament, although how well that works remains to be seen.

The bottom line is that star players missing games sends the message to fans that the regular season doesn’t matter, which would be trouble for the NBA’s business model. There is no easy answer, but Kerr is far from the only person advocating a reduced season.