Michael Jordan to Hornets on Load Management: 'You're Paid to Play 82 Games'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC- FEBRUARY 12: Owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan, hosts a press conference for media before NBA All-Star Weekend at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 12, 2019. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford said his old-school stance on load management goes back to an annual message delivered by Charlotte Hornets owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan

"Our guys aren't used to sitting on the second game of a back-to-back. We're not sitting guys just to sit," Clifford said, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. "For me, my background frankly, it all goes back to expectations. Being with Michael in Charlotte, Michael used to tell them every year, you're paid to play 82 games."

Clifford spent five seasons as head coach of the Hornets before being fired in April 2018.

The 58-year-old Maine native is a former high school and collegiate basketball player with more than three decades of coaching experience under his belt. His first NBA job came with the New York Knicks in 2000, and he commented on how much things have changed since that point, per Bondy.

"I've been doing this for 20 years, and playing 82 games used to be a badge of courage for a lot of guys," Clifford said. "There were always a lot of guys who didn't want to play. They stood out more."

His comments come amid controversy generated by the Los Angeles Clippers' decision to rest Kawhi Leonard for a nationally broadcast game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass released a statement to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski clearing the Clippers of any potential violations, but it still sparked a debate about the load-management craze:

"Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league's resting policy, and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers injury report. The league office, in consultation with the NBA's director of sports medicine is comfortable with the team medical staff's determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time."

Leonard played just 60 regular-season games as a member of the Toronto Raptors last year. That left him completely healthy for the playoffs as he led the Raptors to a championship and took home Finals MVP honors.

That's forced teams to reconsider their stance on resting key players, especially in back-to-back situations. Unfortunately, that leads to a diminished product for the fans at times, such as Wednesday night's clash between the Clippers and Bucks, a potential NBA Finals preview.

It doesn't sound like the Hornets or Magic will follow suit, though.