Pat Riley suddenly has a problem with resting players, and he should considering the circumstances surrounding the Miami Heat’s failure to make the playoffs.
After winning 30 of their final 41 games, the Heat found themselves in the running for a possible post-season berth. Their hopes hinged on the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets. Both teams had games at the end of the season that the Heat desperately needed them to win.
Unfortunately for the Heat, that level of desperation didn’t go both ways.
The Hawks opted to rest some players since they had already clinched a playoff spot, and the Nets did the same with virtually no reason at all but to go on an early summer vacation. Riley has admitted to resting players during his coaching days, but he believes things are getting out of hand in today’s NBA.
“You’re listening to a guy who was the first one who did this in 1982,” said Riley. “I don’t know if you remember. Portland, last game of the season, I got a call from [Lakers owner] Dr. [Jerry] Buss, and Dr. Buss said ‘I’m leaving Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and James [Worthy] and Magic [Johnson] home. I said, ‘What?!’ I think we got fined $10,000.”
Some would be quick to point out the maintenance program the Heat implemented for star guard Dwayne Wade in the 2013 championship year. However, that’s a tough point to make considering Wade was 31 years old at the time with bad knees. That’s completely different than purposely benching an entire team of 20-somethings for a little rest and recuperation.
No one is ever going to fault a team for sitting a player with a legitimate ailment. If a player has a bum knee and needs to take some time off, he should be afforded that opportunity without repercussions, but the NBA can’t allow coaches to start resting their entire teams for bogus reasons.
Obviously, an NBA season is constructed like a marathon, and players are already banged-up and burnt out by the time the playoffs arrive. Depending on how good a team is, the postseason is another mini season in and of itself.
This will always be a tough issue because both sides have a valid point. Players deserve rest and fans deserve to get the show they pay to see. Teams could help the situation by limiting the number of players they randomly rest. Every star on an entire team doesn’t need to sit at the same time.
As for Riley, he should move on in hopes that the Heat play better earlier next season. They dug themselves too deep of a hole with an 11-30 start.
That blame is theirs to shoulder alone.