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David Stern: ‘Shame on the Brooklyn Nets’

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The Brooklyn Nets rested three of its top players in the final game of the season and it’s still a topic of conversation... two weeks later. The Nets were slated to finish with the worst record in the NBA. So Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson made the decision to rest Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker.

Former NBA commissioner, David Stern, was the latest to speak out against the Nets resting players, stating that it’s “inexcusable” and shameful on the front office’s part. He spoke to USA Today’s “NBA A to Z” podcast.

"I have no idea what was in the mind of the executives of the Brooklyn Nets — none — when they rested their starting players. 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).”

Chicago needed a win against the Nets in order to clinch the final seed in the East. By resting players, the Nets essentially helped the Bulls make it to the post-season. Stern believes head coach Kenny Atkinson and Nets just wanted to follow the rest.

“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 said. “That's all. The coach wanted to join the (rest) club, 'I'll show you, I'll rest my players.' I think I was listening to (Celtics commentator) Tommy Heinsohn that night saying, 'What, are they resting them to give them strength to empty their lockers?’”

Following the game, Atkinson addressed the controversy about resting the three Nets who averaged double figures for such a crucial game.

“I’m going to be honest with you. As a competitor, I understand it. Like I understand the point of view that some of you have and that the press has, maybe other teams in this league. I do understand it, but we have to look at it from the Brooklyn Nets’ franchise perspective and what’s best for us, and that’s how we’re looking at it in a vacuum. I think that’s my responsibility as a coach, to look at it in that vein. But, that being said, I do understand it.’’

Simply put, the Nets didn’t want to risk injury to their two top players in what was for the Nets a meaningless game. Not to mention, Atkinson noted, the Nets were evaluating five players without guarantees heading into next season.

“We’re looking out for the best for the Nets,” Atkinson added. “We want to go into this offseason healthy. It’s a huge offseason for us . . . When Sean and I talked, [it was] what’s best for the Nets, what’s best for our franchise. We just took it in that vein and tried to leave the other stuff out.”

Asked for comment, the Nets declined.

Stern once fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for resting four of their best players during a nationally-televised game. Commissioner Adam Silver, delivered a message to owners calling rest "an extremely significant issue for our league” and said teams will face “significant penalties”.

So far no penalties for the Nets. Haven’t they suffered enough already?