The NBA fined the Minnesota Timberwolves $25,000 Thursday for violating the league’s player resting policy, marking the first time the league has enforced the load-management rules put in place in 2017 and clarified in November.
The violation occurred when the Timberwolves rested D’Angelo Russell — a healthy player under the policy — during Sunday’s road game against the Nuggets in Denver, the league said.
The resting policy limits teams from sitting healthy players in “high-profile” nationally televised games. Sunday’s game was on NBA TV. The policy requires that teams rest players only when they are home, unless there are unusual circumstances.
The Wolves said in a statement that they accepted the fine but noted: “We are a player-centric organization that’s focused on learning and optimizing our players’ bodies. As a new player in our program, we chose to rest D’Angelo in order to learn his body better and to optimize his health during a difficult stretch of games and travel.”
In November, the NBA fined the LA Clippers $50,000 for comments made by coach Doc Rivers that “were inconsistent” with Kawhi Leonard’s health.
Leonard had sat out the first of a back-to-back set of games for the second time this season. In its ruling, the NBA made it clear the Clippers were compliant with league rules in the team’s decision to sit the All-Star for load management of a knee injury. But Rivers, when asked before the game about Leonard and his health, said he “feels great,” that there was no reason to be concerned and that the team has to make sure Leonard stays feeling great.
The league then outlined new guidelines for injury reporting in a Nov. 11 memo to teams, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. The short version: Load management is now rest. If that term is used, it will mean a healthy player is taking the night off. If skipping that particular game violates the league’s resting policy, that player’s team will be penalized.
The league implemented the rules in 2017 after several instances in which teams rested players that would’ve resulted in a fine under the rules. But the history of “load management” dates to at least 2012, when Gregg Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green back to San Antonio before the Spurs’ last game of a six-game road trip. That drew widespread attention most notably because it was a prime-time matchup with LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Then-commissioner David Stern, calling it a “disservice to the league and our fans,” fined the Spurs $250,000.