Over the past five years, Greg Popovich has put the San Antonio Spurs on a maintenance program. He knows if his team is healthy they have a chance of competing for an NBA Title. The older his team gets, the harder it is for them to make it through a full regular season and a full postseason to win a title. So he gives his older players and stars scheduled days off and allows his role players to play more minutes during the season in case they are needed for the playoffs.
With three straight Finals appearances and back to back NBA Titles, the Miami Heat have played more games than anyone else over the past three years. LeBron James has only missed 13 regular season games in that span and played in 67 playoff games and the Olympics. Dwyane Wade has been banged up over the past two years and barely made it through the Finals against the Spurs. His knee, which has required multiple surgeries, is a cause for concern in Miami this year.
The Miami Heat also have aging veterans Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen in their rotation this year. With a championship roster returning, it may be time for Miami to go on the maintenance program and give a lot of these guys scheduled days off. They have proven they can beat the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks on the road in the playoffs, so the number one seed in the Eastern Conference is not as important as going into the postseason healthy.
Erik Spoelstra should limit Wade to 55-60 games this year and rest him on the majority of back to back games. The rest of the rotation including Chris Bosh, James, Allen, Battier, Haslem and Andersen should be limited to about 70 games each. The Heat should allow Michael Beasley, James Jones, Norris Cole, Jarvis Varnado, Rashard Lewis and Mario Chalmers to get big minutes throughout the season and make sure they are ready if someone gets injured during the playoffs.
It would be much easier for Spoelstra to schedule these days off in advance instead of telling these guys the day of the game that they are going to be inactive. This system has been working for San Antonio for a long time and may be necessary for the Heat to three-peat in 2014.