Former NBA commissioner David Stern agrees with Heat fans angry with the Brooklyn Nets for resting their players against the Chicago Bulls on the final night of the regular season.
The Miami Heat, having defeated the Wizards, needed the Nets to defeat the Bulls to make the playoffs. But Brooklyn sat six players for various reasons, including resting three starters, and lost by 39 points. The Heat and Bulls finished 41-41 and Chicago claimed the final playoff spot in the East on a tie-breaker.
In an interview on USA Today’s “NBA A to Z” podcast, Stern said what the Nets did was “inexcusable.”
“I have no idea what was in the mind of the executives of the Brooklyn Nets,” Stern said. “None. There was sort of an agreement we had with our fans — and the players picked up on it too — if you’re playing in a game of consequence, that has an impact, which is as good as it gets, (then you shouldn’t rest players).
“Here we are, the Brooklyn Nets are out of the running. They have the lowest record in the sport. But they have an opportunity to weigh in on the final game with respect to Chicago. And they sit their starters? Really? It’s inexcusable in my view. I don’t think the commissioner maybe can, or even should, do anything about it. But shame on the Brooklyn Nets. They broke the pact.”
The Heat also benefited from teams resting players the final week. Miami beat a Cleveland team that sat LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and the Wizards rested guards John Wall and Bradley Beal in that final game.
The difference, though, was Cleveland and Washington were preparing for the playoffs which were starting that weekend. The Nets were on their way to an NBA-worst 20-62 record and had nothing on the schedule until October.
“I think I’m going to give the Nets the benefit of the doubt that they did it without recognizing what they were doing. That’s all,” Stern continued. “The coach wanted to join the club: ‘I’ll show you, I’ll rest my players (too).’
“I think I was listening to (Celtics TV analyst] Tommy Heinsohn that night, saying, ‘What, are they resting them to give them strength to empty their lockers?’”
Heat players were guarded in their comments about the Nets but president Pat Riley addressed the issue in general, saying the practice has become a “travesty.” Riley, though, was talking more about team’s opting to rest players throughout the season, not late when most teams headed to the playoffs will sit their stars the last game or two of the regular season.
“I think it’s gotten to the point where it’s become a travesty, an absolute travesty,” Riley said. “Blatantly. I don’t care how many players you’re resting or who.”
With most of the ‘rest games’ during the season coming on the second night of back-to-backs, the NBA is starting the regular season about 10 days early next season in hopes of reducing teams playing on consecutive nights, which they hope cuts back the need for players to take off games.
Stern believes that change will help cut down on players resting.
As commissioner, Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 in 2012 for leaving four players home for a late-November, nationally-televised game against the Heat. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tony Parker did not play in Miami’s 105-100 victory, the night that some look back as the root to the modern day practice of resting.
The Spurs were playing the final game of a six-game, nine-day road trip and played the previous night in Orlando.