The controversial practice of NBA teams resting key players during regular-season games took an ugly turn on Wednesday when several teams announced they were resting players in games that will decide the final two playoff spots.
Up for grabs are the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference and three teams, the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, and Chicago Bulls are still alive. All three teams will play their final regular-season games on Wednesday and the playoff scenarios are pretty straight-forward.
- The Pacers (vs. the Atlanta Hawks) and the Bulls (vs. the Brooklyn Nets) are in the playoffs if they win.
- The Heat (vs. the Washington Wizards) only make the playoffs if they win and either the Pacers or the Heat lose.
Unfortunately, despite the uber-importance of these three games, the three opponents have all announced they will be resting key players.
While it would be nice if the Hawks and Wizards put their best foot forward, for them it is understandable to a certain degree because they are in the playoffs. Things are bit more farcical with the Nets — a team that is 20-61 with no more games to play — “resting” three players and having three others out with various injuries.
Count ESPN’s Rachel Nichols among those who are not happy with how this is playing out, with teams essentially tanking their final game of the season.
On Nichols’ show, “The Jump,” she had some harsh words for the NBA, saying they “should be embarrassed” (emphasis is ours):
“Look at these guys — Jeremy Lin, Brook Lopez, Trevor Booker — these three are going to be held out for rest. Yes. For the final day of the season. For a team that isn’t going to make the playoffs. I mean, c’mon! … it’s [the tanking] that I can’t quite get past. Look, I have no horse in the race, on whether it is the Pacers or the Bulls or the Heat who make the playoffs. But as a fan of the game, I do want whichever teams to make it to have to earn it. The NBA should be embarrassed. Two of its biggest institutional problems right now: the misuse of player rest and that many teams are more incentivized to tank than to try to win are what come together tonight to punish a Miami team that instead, tried to do something that feels increasingly quaint these days, you know, actually play to make the playoffs.”
Needless to say, people in Miami are not happy either. That includes Heat guard Tyler Johnson.
“It sucks,” Johnson told the Miami Herald. “It definitely sucks especially because the [Nets] just beat [the Bulls Saturday] and we’re figuring maybe it’s a mental thing and they can go in there [to Chicago] and get another one at home just to end the season.”
Heat owner Mickey Arison was a bit more diplomatic about the Nets’ decision.
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