Mikal Bridges, sportsbooks and why the NBA took action against the Brooklyn Nets
The NBA fined the Nets $100,000 for sitting four healthy non-stars. Why?
On Thursday, the NBA issued a press release announcing that the Brooklyn Nets were fined $100,000 for breaking a league rule. The crime?
…for violating the league’s Player Participation Policy in connection with the team’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 27 at Barclays Center.
Following an investigation, including review by an independent physician, the NBA determined that four Nets rotation players, who did not participate in the game, 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.
This marks the first time that an NBA team was punished for violating the new PPP rules. Through the first two months of the season, hundreds of players have missed games. I’m willing to guess that a few of them were “healthy” enough to play if it were a playoff game. (Before the season, I wrote about five ways teams might Eurostep around the PPP).
But up until Thursday, no team had been nailed for skirting the PPP rules and sitting healthy stars. The NBA didn’t cite the players by name in Thursday’s press release but we can find out which players the NBA said “did not participate in the game” with a legit injury by looking at the official injury report that day:
Ben Simmons was out for a few weeks with a back injury. This isn’t about him. The four other Nets players that were listed: Spencer Dinwiddie (rest), Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee soreness), Cameron Johnson (right knee sprain; injury maintenance) and Nic Claxton (left ankle sprain; injury maintenance). There they are — four players.
I see why they were given the night off. The Nets were playing on the second night of a back-to-back trip that required an overnight flight from Detroit to Brooklyn. Playing five games in seven nights, it’s understandable that some Nets players were beat up. We see these designations all the time — injury maintenance, rest, etc — especially on zero-days’ rest and those teams have not been hit with fines.
So why the Nets? Why these four players?
It struck me as odd. The NBA’s first PPP violation punishment came down on four players who are definitively not stars. The PPP was primarily about prohibiting teams from resting stars — the LeBrons and Durants of the world.
Do a control+F on the word “star” in the PPP document and it appears 45 times. Zero returns for “rotation” players — even though those were the caliber of players officially the subject of Thursday’s press release. One might point out that it’s the Player Participation Policy and not the Star Participation Policy. And there does appear to be some language that gives the NBA some latitude to apply the same rules for all players, whether it’s Dorian or Durant.
But for all intents and purposes, the PPP was about getting the big names to play on the big games. Finney-Smith, Johnson, Claxton and Dinwiddie have never made an All-Star game, and the game wasn’t on national TV.
So what is this about? Why those four players?
From where I sit, I don’t think this was really about them. And I don’t think it’s really about medicals or national TV. There’s a betting angle here that I don’t think should be discounted.