This season, the Warriors’ combined player salary and luxury tax bill will bump up over $400 million, setting a new NBA record.
With their aging core, the Warriors have been at the forefront of using their sports science people to dictate when players sit out regular season games, both to reduce injury risk (injuries are more common with fatigued players) and keep Stephen Curry and company fresh for the playoffs.
That’s why new Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy says the Warriors feel “targeted” by the league for things such as the second tax apron (ramping up penalties on teams well over the luxury tax line) and the new Player Participation Program that sets up rules for when star players can be rested.
“I think first and foremost, for Joe [Lacob, team co-owner] and the whole franchise, I think (the rules changes are) a compliment. You know, they’re making rules to prevent you from succeeding. And I think that’s the way that some of us are, and certainly Joe, sees it. (There are now) financial implications that would maybe keep us from going to a certain level.
“The (star player) rest stuff as well, a little bit, seems to be targeted at a roster similar to ours. So I think first of all, you take it as a compliment when, you know, just like Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), (when) they took the dunk out (of the college game during his days at UCLA). … You’ve gotta first let it soak in and feel like, ‘OK, we did something right (for the changes to be seen as necessary).'”
Dunleavy said something similar during his press conference Monday.
Dunleavy isn’t totally wrong. However, while the Warriors may be the hardest hit by the rules, it was not just them that was targeted.
The new second tax apron was pushed by other owners who wanted to restrain the biggest spending owners who seemed to just ignore the luxury tax. Lacob and the Warriors were part of that after the Chase Center opened (the building is almost an ATM for ownership), but so was Steve Ballmer. While the Clippers have not had near the on-court success of the Warriors (or even what the Clippers themselves expected), their spending has been very close to the Warriors, and Ballmer is rich enough not to care much about the tax. The Brooklyn Nets were right up there with the Clippers and Warriors in spending until Kyrie Irving asked out and the bottom fell out of the team this year.
In the case of load management, again it was not the Warriors being singled out — the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have become the poster child for the issue. It’s also not a coincidence the league office cracked down on star players suiting up for nationally televised games right was trying to negotiate a new television rights package. Load management is both a perception issue with fans and one of the biggest concerns of broadcast partners, and Silver swung from talking about players listening to the science of rest and recovery a couple of years ago to setting out new rules now.
What really matters is how the Warriors handle the rules — the Jordan Poole trade for Chris Paul was as much a long-term financial move as a basketball one (CP3 has no guaranteed money on his contract after this season). How the Warriors and other teams handle the rest issue throughout the season will be something to watch, but by Christmas most players have enough bumps, bruises and tweaked muscles to qualify for a medically necessary night off whenever they want.