This is your daily reminder that professional basketball players—despite their propensity for sweating neon-colored sports drinks—are actually human.
With his team reeling at the most inopportune time, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel has decided to rest some of his key players down the stretch, according to Pacers.com’s Scott Agness:
Vogel said PG and DWest, two guys that have played every game, came to him about rest. Vogel regrets not giving them more days off In March.— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) April 8, 2014
Vogel on tomorrow: "Not everybody will play. We’ll pick our spots over the final four games to get the guys that need rest some rest."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) April 8, 2014
Before we delve into the strategic implications of Vogel’s decision, some context is in order.
It began with a story by CBS Sports’ Ken Berger back in late March, in which the writer—cognizant, as we all were, of Indy’s plummeting performance—wondered aloud whether Vogel hadn’t held his foot on the accelerator a bit too long:
But there is a dilemma that the Pacers may have to confront before it is too late. Indiana's Big Three of George, Hibbert and West have played in every one of the Pacers' 68 games this season. Not a single game off for any of them. This is in stark contrast to how Gregg Popovich has handled the Spurs for years. Erik Spoelstra has strategically scheduled nights off for his stars, too.
Rather than heed the warning signs, Vogel and the Pacers pushed on to similar results: bad losses, lackadaisical effort (at times) and a fast-fracturing confidence and chemistry.
Things came to an even more pointed head in the last two weeks, with center Roy Hibbert’s caustic remarks about “selfish dudes” in the Indiana locker room only fanning the flames further, per NBA.com’s David Aldridge.
I considered resting Roy before tonight's game because he looks worn down, he's a 7-2 player that's played every game this year, which is very rare. He looks to me to be worn down. He's giving good effort, but he looks to me to be worn down.
It seems likely Vogel will opt to rest his starters for tomorrow night’s tilt against the Milwaukee Bucks. After that, the Pacers will face the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder—given the potential playoff matchup implications, probably not the kind of games that warrant added rest—before finishing the regular-season slate visiting the Orlando Magic on April 16, another likely rest day.
At this point, the Pacers are basically conceding the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed to the Heat, something that—after last year’s heartbreaking seven-game conference-finals loss—they’ve explicitly admitted wanting.
But, as Vogel himself pointed out per Agness, there’s a delicate utilitarian calculus at work that shouldn’t be subsumed by tunnel-vision strategy, even if the difference between the two teams remains just a single game:
Vogel: "I think getting them some rest will make them fresher going into the playoffs. It’s not the answer, but I think it’s part of it."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) April 8, 2014
When David West, who eats bricks for breakfast, has to tell you he’s tired? Yes, you might have a problem.