The era of load management is coming to a close — or at least that’s the goal of a new NBA policy for the 2023-24 season.
The NBA Board of Governors voted Wednesday to approve a new player participation policy that will fine teams for resting multiple stars in any game. The policy will require teams to make stars available for nationally televised and in-season tournament games, balance player absences between home and away games and avoid “shutdown” periods that sideline otherwise healthy players during stretches.
Star players also will be required to be visible and available to fans during their rest games, a holdover from the previous player-participation policy set in 2017.
The league will investigate teams for violations of the new policies, with $100,000 fines for first-time offenses, $250,000 for the second and $1.25 million for the third. Fines will continue to increase at a rate of $1 million for any subsequent violations.
Because this is a league policy, not a segment of the collective bargaining agreement, fines will be sent to teams rather than players.
The 50 star players are defined as any player who has earned All-NBA or All-Star accolades in the last three seasons. On the Chicago Bulls roster, those players are Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević.
This update is the latest in a series of rules made to address load management, which the NBA feels is a necessity to maintain a broad range of success from fan involvement to reliability in gambling lines.
The requirements will shift the landscape as teams adjust to a bevy of new mechanics designed to keep stars on the court for as many games as possible. But for the Bulls, roster rotation will remain business as usual, even in the wake of the changes.
This is true, in part, because of the desperation of the Bulls’ position. The team narrowly missed the playoffs last season after allowing a late-game comeback by the Miami Heat, who advanced from the play-in tournament and eventually made the NBA Finals. The Bulls don’t have room for rest or error — even in an 82-game season, every night will count as they attempt to return to the postseason.
Even if the Bulls were more comfortable in their Eastern Conference standing, the roster always has been eager to play as much as possible.
Vučević and forward Patrick Williams played in all 82 games last season, with both citing the importance of availability as keys to their career. LaVine played in 70 of the final 71 games after missing four as he eased back from an offseason knee surgery.
During his All-Star availability in February in Salt Lake City, DeRozan suggested a 78-game minimum for players to qualify for MVP, which would require players to miss only four games. DeRozan has logged 78 or more games only four times in his career — including 74 last season.
The league didn’t hew to DeRozan’s suggestion, but this summer’s collective bargaining agreement produced a new 65-game minimum for MVP candidates. This change is paired with the introduction of the in-season tournament, which is designed to heighten stakes in the early months of the season.
There will be exceptions to the rest rule. For instance, the league will allow teams to submit written requests a week in advance for older players during back-to-back games. This designation is allowed to a small pool of stars who are either 35 at the start of the season or have logged 34,000 regular-season minutes or 1,000 NBA games in their career — a group that includes DeRozan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.
Teams will be able to make other requests for player absences, including personal reasons and end-of-season availability.
Although these rules are unlikely to affect the Bulls’ approach to roster management, they could affect their opponents. Load management occasionally might have resulted in disappointed fans but it could offer lower-ranked teams a more evenhanded matchup against the goliaths of the league.
The new expectations will be another challenge for teams and star players alike — and for the Bulls, another hurdle in a high-stakes season.