Kenny Atkinson, Nets Defend Decision To Rest Key Players With Playoffs On Line For Others

By Cody Westerlund–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Following the decision to rest three key players in a regular-season finale that has no meaning to them but playoff implications for several other teams in the East, the Nets defended their move by citing the need to go into the offseason healthy and to evaluate youngsters.

Brooklyn (20-61) is resting leading scorer Brook Lopez, second-leading scorer Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker, another rotation regular, at Chicago on Wednesday night. The decision has reverberated around the league and raised questions about competitive integrity because with a win, the Bulls (40-41) advance to the playoffs. But a loss would leave the door open for the Heat to reach the postseason with a win against the Wizards.

“It’s a decision that we took as a franchise and organization,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “And really, that’s it in a vacuum: We’re looking out for what’s best for the Nets. We want to go into this offseason healthy. It’s a huge offseason for us. Again, we made the decision in the best interest of our organization.

“It gives us a great opportunity to look at our young players, guys that are fighting to be in this league. Great opportunity for them to develop in a great atmosphere, in a playoff-type atmosphere. It’s a great chance for us to evaluate those guys.”

The Nets were starting Spencer Dinwiddie (a training camp cut by the Bulls), Randy Foye, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Justin Hamilton against the Bulls. Resting players is an the NBA’s biggest issue moving forward in the eyes of commissioner Adam Silver, he recently said.

Asked about that, Atkinson largely deflected the question.

“I know the group we’re going to send out there is going to compete,” Atkinson said.

Lopez and Lin both confirmed they were healthy and emphasized they were on the same page as the organization in sitting out. Each also expressed an understanding of why the Heat may be upset, with Lin mulling his answer to that topic for several seconds before responding carefully.

In doing so, Lin also referenced Brooklyn’s 107-106 win against Chicago on Saturday, a day the Nets played at full strength.

“I don’t know,” Lin said. “It’s interesting. I think everybody plays 82 games. Each one is just as valuable. Not to say they don’t have a right to be upset or whatever — I can definitely understand that. But I think like, we had just played Chicago and beat them last week. I think that had to help them. I don’t know. You can look at this from so many different angles. I can understand why fans would be a little bit upset. But if you look across the league, every team that has an opportunity to do it is doing it — a majority, a lot of the teams.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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