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NBA fines Brooklyn Nets $100,000 for punting Milwaukee Bucks game

It took a few days, but the NBA announced Thursday that it had fined the Brooklyn Nets organization $100,000 for keeping four healthy players on the bench vs. Milwaukee.

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Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets week just keeps getting worse.

On Thursday, the day after they lost their fifth straight game, the Nets were fined $100,000 by the NBA for “violating the Player Participation Policy” in their 144-122 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks a week ago, the first loss in the current streak.

It was the first fine levied under the policy which is part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The league wants fewer games where the league’s top players sit out because of less-than-serious injury and illnesses.

The NBA announcement specifically says the Nets should have played the four players the team sat that night: Nic Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and Cam Johnson. The Nets also pulled Mikal Bridges, Cam Thomas and Royce O’Neale early in the game but the NBA announcement did not address that decision.

“We’ve been very clear with teams what we are trying to accomplish, and what we’d like to see,” Joe Dumars, the NBA’s executive vice-president and head of basketball operations, told ESPN shortly after the fine was announced. “And, if I’m just cutting to the chase, if you’re gonna sit four starters at one time that’s going to violate the policy and it violates the spirit of what we’re trying to do here.

The league noted that it had engaged an independent physician in determining players were healthy enough to play.

The league has become increasingly sensitive to load management issues and there’s new language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement providing the NBA with new enforcement mechanisms.

The Nets, as Jacque Vaughn noted at the time, were dealing with both a tight schedule and injuries. The Bucks game was the team’s fifth game in seven days and after facing the Wizards two days later, they had five more in the next eight days before jetting off to Paris on January 8 for a game three days later. Moreover, the injury and illness bug has hit them fairly hard. Before the game vs. Milwaukee, Vaughn revealed that some players “didn’t reveal they were dealing with sicknesses” on the recently concluded West Coast trip.

“I’ve got to think short term and long term and make executive decisions for the betterment of the group,” Vaughn said at the time. “It’s unfortunate tonight that they just got to the point where we’re putting them in harm’s way by putting them out there tonight.”

After the game, both pundits , fans — and Bridges — criticized the Nets decision even if the replacement players the Nets relied on — five players who have spent most of the season in Long Island and Trendon Watford — scored 78 points and the Nets were within eight points of the Bucks at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

As Bobby Marks noted, the fine was assessed under a little noticed section of the policy...

“We announced to everyone, we conveyed to everyone, that we embrace being an 82-game league,” Dumars told ESPN. “And although we know that that doesn’t mean that every guy’s gonna play 82 games, the spirit of that is we show up and we play. And by and large this year, guys have really shown up and played this year.

“We’re super happy with how guys are showing up and playing this year, whether it be the PPP policy or whether it be the in-season tournament ... the level of competition, guys playing back-to-backs showing up and playing. The level of play has been excellent. But when you have a situation, we have to address it. Without going into every single detail of it, at the end of the day, you sit that many guys at one time, that’s gonna raise red flags here at the league office.”

It is the second fine in two seasons for the Nets under similar circumstances: Last season, they were fined $25,000 when they sat eight players vs. the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis — including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons — but still won. Since then, the new CBA with its increased enforcement powers, was agreed on by the NBA and players’ union.

This is the second six figure fine assessed Joe Tsai by an NBA entity. Two years ago, the Liberty were fined $500,000 for clandestinely chartering jets rather than travel the team commercially. That fine, however, wound up looking more like an investment when WNBA players embraced the Tsais’ player-friendly culture.

This fine, however, is more embarrassing and it comes in the middle of a disappointing season and a current five-game losing streak.

This story will be updated.