Joe Dumars, the NBA’s executive vice president and head of basketball operations, told ESPN on Thursday that the investigation into the Nets sitting several players in one game last week, and the $100,000 fine Brooklyn received for violating the league’s player participation policy, was about following through on the standards he communicated to teams about the new rules before the season began.
“We’ve been very clear with teams what we are trying to accomplish, and what we’d like to see,” Dumars told ESPN shortly after the fine was announced Thursday afternoon. “And, if I’m just cutting to the chase, if you’re going to 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.
Brooklyn sat four players — Spencer Dinwiddie (rest), Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee soreness), Cam Johnson (right knee sprain/injury maintenance) and Nic Claxton (left ankle sprain/injury maintenance) — for the game, ultimately a 144-122 loss to the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back after beating the Detroit Pistons the night before. Also, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn didn’t play Mikal Bridges, Cam Thomas or Royce O’Neale after the first quarter.
“I’ve got to think short term and long term and make executive decisions for the betterment of the group,” Vaughn told reporters before the game in explaining the decision to sit so many players. “So that’s where we’re at tonight.”
Dumars, on the other hand, saw things differently, saying that his messaging going back to before the season started about trying to get the NBA, and its teams, back to thinking holistically about the 82-game schedule, and its meaning for the league, meant Brooklyn — after an investigation, including a review by an independent doctor — had violated the policy the league enacted this summer to avoid just these types of situations.
“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 going to 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 going to raise red flags here at the league office.”
The league has investigated other situations that have taken place this season, but this was the first time a team has been fined for being in violation of the new policy.
“We are serious about this,” Dumars said. “We talked to people, we talked to everyone, all parties we talked to before the season started. And to not follow through with this would not be right of us. It would not be the thing to do, to not follow through. So yeah, we are very serious about this. We communicated, we overly communicated with everyone about this, and we made very clear that if your guys can play or we feel that your guys can play, they should be on the court. And it’s gone over extremely well this year.
“So this is not just about the Nets, it’s about the policy itself. It’s about where we stand. It’s about us holding to the things that we said that we were going to hold to. So it’s not just, I don’t want this just to be about the Nets. I think it’s overall about the policy, and the NBA is very serious about this policy.”
And, Dumars said, he was pleased that this was the first time the league has stated a team has violated the policy this season — a sign that, in his eyes, it is working the way the league had hoped and intended that it would.
“It’s unfair to everyone involved with the NBA,” Dumars said of sitting that many players at once. “It’s unfair to everyone to just sit guys like that. We’ve talked to all 30 teams about ways that you can rest your players and get your players rest. We understand that guys are going to need rest at times. Never have we said, ‘Guys, yes, you can sit four of your five starters anytime you want.’ That’s just not a part of the policy. That’s violating the policy.