Last season, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson learned the hard way that playing some of your older veterans a bit too much during the regular season will likely come back to bite you in the butt come playoff time.
A player like Rasheed Wallace was forced into retirement. Jason Kidd could no longer make a shot (and then was forced into retirement, perhaps). Even Carmelo Anthony is looking back at the previous season and saying the wear and tear (seemingly from playing too many minutes at power forward, but not so much too many minutes in general) had taken a toll on him physically.
While Woodson will look to learn from his mistakes this coming season, perhaps Kidd (now head coach of the Nets) will learn from them as well. As we enter the new season, Coach Kidd (I know, still strange) is already suggesting he'll limit Kevin Garnett's participation in back to back contests through the year.
But the Knicks and Nets aren't the only teams planning on resting their veterans throughout the season in hopes of keeping them fresh come the postseason. The Spurs have been utilizing such a strategy for years, and now even Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is suggesting Steve Nash will be next in the ever growing line of veterans missing time (be it due to an injury, or perhaps as they look to prevent one) through the 82 game grind.
For diehard basketball fans who have grown up watching such potential Hall of Famers emerge as true stars, the idea that the end for many of them may be near is a little discouraging. But as some of these bigger names begin to phase out, similar doors may be opened wide up for some up and coming athletes (notably, perhaps some NBADL alumni) to step up in the clutch.
For many, that window of opportunity may indeed crack open over the course of the regular season. While teams allow their veterans to keep an eye on the postseason, they'll need younger players to come in and eat up some minutes along the way.
More often than not, the justification for assigning an NBA player to the D-League in the middle of the season is the fact that there isn't enough playing time to go around. That may be right, but with more and more veterans taking a seat, such minutes are going to become available for some NBADL alumni and promising rookies who may otherwise get assigned to the minor league.
In the case of the Spurs, we've already seen players like Danny Green and Cory Joseph be depended on in clutch situations with key minutes. Could this be the year that we see fellow NBADL alumni like Jeremy Tyler and Toure Murry (Knicks), Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor (Nets), and Darius Johnson-Odom and Marcus Landry (Lakers) become beneficiaries of similar opportunities? Only time will tell.