INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — First, Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn had to convince All-Star forward Kevin Durant to stay home Saturday night.
Then he tried to explain why the Nets opted to rest their top seven scorers against Indiana in game where they rallied to beat the Pacers 136-133.
For Vaughn, it came down to a simple calculation. With a second game in two nights, most of those players dealing with or recovering from injuries and only one game between Sunday and Friday, Vaughn felt it was the best thing to do for his players and the franchise.
“When you have two or three guys, rotational guys out, it puts a strain and a stress on two or three more guys and then we’re really not in a position of taking care of the team in total,” he said. “We think, how does it affect everyone else so we can get to a place where, next week we’re looking at ourselves in the mirror with pretty good health mentally and physically.”
Perhaps, but league officials have tried to discourage the roster management practice, especially for nationally televised games and for road games so fans could see the players they bought tickets to see.
On Saturday, Vaughn kept Durant and Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Royce O’Neale, Nic Claxton, Seth Curry and T.J. Warren all out. None of the starters from a 120-116 victory Friday night over Atlanta played and Durant didn’t even make the trip — at Vaughn’s urging. Durant ranks among league leaders in minutes played.
In Brooklyn’s case, seven of the players including Durant, Irving and Simmons are either injured or rehabbing from injuries. O’Neale missed the game for personal reasons and is not expected to play Monday at Washington, either.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle understood.
“What’s happening tonight, this is part of playing, this is a very extreme case,” he said. “In coaching when you’re managing a team as an executive, minutes accumulate, aches and pains this time of year, you’re thinking big picture and a day at the right time can really help a player over the next two weeks type of thing.”
Yes, it will make the Nets severely short-handed in the first stop on a four-game trip.
But in the long run, Vaughn believes it will keep Brooklyn more competitive and doesn’t believe the Nets have done anything to violate the rule or the spirit of the rule.
“I hope that fan knows Kevin really wanted to play, he understands that he (Durant) wants to win every game but it’s a decision that for us, as an organization, just had to do,” Vaughn said. “I would say to that fan I’m looking out for Kevin Durant’s future and really apologize that this is the game he (the fan) chose. But understand that Kevin has given all that he’s had in every game since the beginning of the season.”
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