Resting players already begun

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Load management. Those two words are akin to curses when it comes to betting the modern day NBA.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is credited with developing and implementing the concept during the heyday of the Spurs as the careers of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli were starting to wind down. Popovich would sit one of more of his stars when no injury was involved. He simply wanted to lessen the fatigue factor during the long grind of an 82-game schedule in an effort to have as fresh a team as possible for the playoffs.

The concept and the goal makes sense. Sometimes players will not sit out an entire game but will play limited minutes. The practice has been adopted by more and more coaches, especially those coaching aging veterans who are principal contributors or have shown to be injury prone.

Some coaches announce their plans in advance, often in the first or second of games on back-to-back nights. Others wait until the morning shoot around. Still others will make a game-time decision.

After opening the season with a 26-point win over Golden State and a 28-point win on Christmas Day over Boston, the Brooklyn Nets played the first of back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday. Spencer Dinwiddie suffered what at the time was a right knee strain after playing just 15 minutes in what would end up being the Nets first loss of the season, 106-104 at Charlotte.

After the game it was learned that Dinwiddie suffered a partially torn ACL that will require surgery and sideline Dinwiddie indefinitely.

Hosting Memphis Monday night, the line opened with Brooklyn a 6.5-point favorite early Monday morning. The line started to drop and several hours later it was made official that Kevin Durant would sit out the game. By that time the line had dropped to -4. Two hours later came word that Kyrie Irving would also be rested and there followed an even more dramatic move that turned Memphis into a 1-point favorite, moving as high as -2.5 before closing at most books with Memphis -1.5.

Despite budding superstar Ja Morant leaving late in the first half with an ankle injury, the Grizzlies defeated the Nets 116-111 in overtime.

If you were prescient enough to suspect the Nets might rest either Durant or Irving, if not both, you could have had a huge middle — and cashing both tickets — by taking +6.5 with Memphis and then again playing the Grizzlies -1.5.

Sounds great. And this may be a very extreme example. But it points out the risks in playing overnight lines even though they generally offer the most value and the ‘sharp professionals’ are able to anticipate most line movements barring unforeseen pre-tipoff events — such as lineup changes most often related to those two ugly words — load management.

I’ve often mentioned the major changes in handicapping and betting sports over the past few decades. In the pre- internet/social media environment, bettors got edges by getting information ahead of the books, often before the news was made public. That enabled such bettors to bet favorable lines before they moved adversely in reaction to the news once it became widespread.

Nowadays such information is available almost instantaneously. If a football player is injured during an open practice those in attendance will tweet it our before the player reaches the sidelines.

Edges these days often come from how universally available information is used and applied. This often involves the current buzzword of analytics. But even analytics cannot fully compensate for load management issues that can often be anticipated prior to overnight lines being released. Thus there is the oft-considered tradeoff of getting what is often considered the best line available (usually the opening line) vs getting a less attractive line but one that reflects information developed after the opening lines come out.

Basketball, being a game in which each player on the court represents 20% of the active players, is perhaps the sport most sensitive to wide line moves between the open and close due to issues other than injury. Proceed with caution but don’t compromise your convictions.

Friday

Hawks at Nets: Atlanta has started 3-0 with a high- powered and entertaining offense led by Trae Young. The third-year player has averaged 34 points per game and has a capable supporting cast that includes veterans Bogdan Bogdanovic and Rajon Rondo.

The Nets have Durant, Irving and a deep bench although one that has been depleted by the injury to Dinwiddie. With no game the night before or after, both Durant and Irving should play. The total should come in the mid 230s but Atlanta’s scored at least 122 points in their first three games as did the Nets in their first two wins. OVER

Saturday

Kings at Rockets: This is the second of back-to-back meetings as the teams played on this court on Thursday. Houston is a team in transition and how long James Harden remains in Houston is speculative. Sacramento is a team on the improve with players such as De’Aaron Fox still developing and Buddy Hield approaching his prime.

As I often like to do in back-to-back matchups I’ll use the results of the first meeting to dictate how to approach the rematch. Despite Harden scoring 34 and 44 points in his first two games, Houston lost. I’m expecting a split in these games. PLAY THE LOSER OF THURSDAY’S GAME

Sunday

Clippers at Suns: Last Sunday, the Clippers were blown out by 51 points at home by Dallas, trailing by 50 at the half.

Fortunately for Phoenix, the Clippers will have played three more games to have made amends for that embarrassment by the time this game is played. The Suns, who were a perfect 8-0 SU and ATS in the Orlando restart, defeated Dallas to open this season before splitting a pair of games at Sacramento. Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges are off to strong starts.

I’m expecting the Clippers to be favored by low- to mid- single digits in a game the Suns believe they can win, even with both Kawhi Leonard (should be recovered from a mouth injury) and Paul George play their normal minutes. SUNS

Last week: 3-2

Season: 3-4

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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