Rest­ing starters a topic on the fi­nal day of NBA reg­u­lar sea­son

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TIM REYNOLDS

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.”

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