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NBA fines Nets $100,000 for violating participation policy by resting 4 players

The league made clear to teams entering this season that resting multiple players, who are healthy enough to play, at once will no longer be overlooked

NBA
Houston Rockets forward Amen Thompson (1) handles the ball against Brooklyn Nets forward Trendon Watford (9) at Toyota Center. Jan 3, 2024, Houston, Texas.Erik Williams (USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con)

The NBA fined the Brooklyn Nets $100,000 on Thursday, marking the first time a team was sanctioned for violating the league’s player participation policy that went into effect this season.

The Nets held out four rotation players — starters Spencer Dinwiddie, Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson, along with key reserve Dorian Finney-Smith — in what became a 144-122 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 27. Three of the players Brooklyn started that night logged 12 minutes or less.

Brooklyn asserted that giving players rest on the second night of a back-to-back — at the start of a stretch where the Nets would play six times in nine days — was best for its club. But the league made clear to teams entering this season that resting multiple players, who are healthy enough to play, at once will no longer be overlooked.

“We’ve talked to all 30 teams about, ‘Hey, there is a way to rest your players,’” NBA executive vice president and head of basketball operations Joe Dumars said. “What we’ve said is sitting four or five guys at one time is not that way. So, if you want to get your players rest, there are ways to do this. But if you do it in a way where it becomes egregious in terms of sitting four or five guys at a time, that’s just not what we’re about in an 82-game league.”

The league’s investigation included a review by an independent physician. The NBA said those resting players “could have played under the medical standard in the Player Participation Policy, which was adopted prior to this season. The organization’s conduct violated the Policy, which is intended to promote player participation in the NBA’s 82-game season.”

After the game against the Bucks, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn insisted the team didn’t treat the game as if it was a meaningless preseason contest. It was the second night of a back-to-back for Brooklyn and Vaughn said he didn’t want to put any player “in harm’s way.”

“I have too much respect for the dudes that suit up and put their body on the line and the competition level to even mention the word exhibition,” Vaughn said that night.

The Nets went 0-4 on the four-game road trip that followed the game against the Bucks, losing each of those last three games by double figures. They are 2-10 in their last 12 contests to fall to 15-20 overall and ninth in the Eastern Conference. They resume play Friday at home against Oklahoma City.

The league’s board of governors approved the new policy — which the NBA says was put together out of “consideration for the interests of fans, integrity of the game, player health, competitive fairness among teams, and transparency” — in September. Teams can be fined $100,000 for the first violation, $250,000 for the second and then an additional $1 million gets tacked on for all subsequent violations.

Commissioner Adam Silver said before the season that the current participation policy boils down to a simple thought: If a player can play, the expectation is they should play.

“This is not about, ‘You can’t rest your players,’” Dumars said. “It’s about how you do it, and that’s not the way to do it.”

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