NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Former NBA commissioner David Stern blasted the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday for sitting some of their players in their season finale, possibly impacting the playoff field.
Talking to USA Today’s “NBA A to Z” podcast, Stern said he was baffled by the Nets’ decision to not play Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker on April 12 against the Chicago Bulls. Three others players — Quincy Acy, Joe Harris and Sean Kilpatrick — missed the game due to injuries.
The Nets lost to Chicago 112-73 — just four days after beating the very same team.
The Bulls and Heat entered the night vying for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Nets, on the other hand, had nothing to gain by not playing to win because, despite having the NBA’s worst record (20-62), they don’t control their first-round pick — that belongs to the Celtics.
Miami beat Washington in its final game, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bulls for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I have no idea what was in the mind of the executives of the Brooklyn Nets — none — when they rested their starting players,” Stern said. “If you’re playing in a game of consequence, that has an impact, which is as good as it gets (you should play your 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 with fans).”
Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 in 2012 for sending four of their top players home to rest, missing a nationally televised game against the Heat. But he said if he were still commissioner today he would not discipline the Nets.
“I think I’m going to give the Nets the benefit of the doubt that they did it without recognizing what they were doing,” Stern continued. “That’s all. The coach (Kenny Atkinson) wanted to join the (rest) club, (like) ‘I’ll show you, I’ll rest my players.’ I think I was listening to (longtime Boston Celtics commentator) Tommy Heinsohn that night, (and he was) saying, ‘What, are they resting them to give them strength to empty their lockers?’”
LISTEN: ‘City Game’ Podcast
Just before the Nets’ final game, Atkinson explained that his lineup decisions were made with the team’s best interest in mind.
“It’s a decision that we took as a franchise and organization,” Atkinson said. “And really, that’s it in a vacuum: We’re looking out for what’s best for the Nets. We want to go into this offseason healthy. It’s a huge offseason for us. Again, we made the decision in the best interest of our organization.
“It gives us a great opportunity to look at our young players, guys that are fighting to be in this league,” the first-year Nets coach added. Great opportunity for them to develop in a great atmosphere, in a playoff-type atmosphere. It’s a great chance for us to evaluate those guys.”