Resting starters a topic on the final day of NBA regular season
MIAMI | On the final night of the regular season, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving rested. So did fellow playoffbound stars such as DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, John Wall, Paul Millsap and Giannis Antetokounmpo. For them, the second season awaits. For others, it was just a night off before a lot more nights off.
A season that had plenty of debate about players missing games to rest got another layer of it in Wednesday’s round of finales.
Brooklyn sat six players for its finale in Chicago, a decision that raised some eyebrows in Miami — since the Heat needed a win by either the Nets or Atlanta (in Indiana) to have a shot at reaching the postseason.
The Nets will finish with the NBA’s worst record, and some of their regulars who weren’t on the floor for the last game of the season said they wanted to play.
Atlanta, which will head to Washington to open a playoff series this weekend and is locked into the No. 5 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs, was without five of its top players for the game in Indiana.
The Chicago, Indiana and Miami games were deciding the final two spots in the 16-team field for this year’s playoffs.
“Obviously, I completely understand they can be upset about it,” Nets center Brook Lopez said. “I’m disappointed that I can’t be out there personally. Again, it frustrates me.”
He wanted to play mainly because it was a chance to go up against his brother, Bulls center Robin Lopez.
“It’s frustrating for me because I definitely want to be out there,” Brook Lopez said. “There is a lot of different reasons. Obviously I love being on the court with my teammates, playing against Robin and just the situation of the game, super-exciting.”
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson defended the plan.
“I’m going to be honest as a competitor, I understand it, I understand the point of view that some of you have, some of the press has and maybe other teams, I do understand it,” Atkinson said to reporters in Chicago.
“But again, we have to look at it from the Brooklyn Nets franchise and what is best for us and that’s how we’re looking into it in a vacuum. That’s my responsibility as coach.”
Heat point guard Goran Dragic understood what the Nets were doing. That doesn’t mean he liked the decision.
“Maybe they’re tired,” Dragic said. “I don’t know.”
Dragic also said that the Heat shouldn’t have had to rely on help from anyone else on the season’s final night.
And on Tuesday, when word came that the Nets were sending a skeleton crew out for the Chicago game, Heat managing general partner Micky Arison tweeted a message to fans to not worry what other teams were doing.
“I think everyone plays 82 games and each one is just as valuable,” said Nets guard Jeremy Lin, one of the Brooklyn players sidelined Wednesday.
“Not to say they don’t have a right to be upset, but ... if you look across the league every team that has an opportunity to do it is doing it.”