The NBA’s participation policy wasn’t meant for guys like Dorian Finney-Smith

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The NBA likely implemented its player participation policy — read: anti-load management protocol — so that fans wouldn’t attend games only to see LeBron James and Anthony Davis, or Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, in street clothes.

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However, it wasn’t one of the league’s best to be the first team punished for violating the policy — it was the Brooklyn Nets, who were fined $100,000.

Spencer Dinwiddie (rest), Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee soreness), Cam Johnson (right knee sprain/injury maintenance), and Nic Claxton (left knee sprain/injury maintenance) all sat against the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 27. (Mikal Bridges, who rounds out the starting five, played the first quarter before sitting the rest of the game.)

The NBA found during its investigation that these players “could have played under the medical standard in the Player Participation Policy, which was adopted prior to the season.”

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the fine for Brooklyn falls under the “Other Circumstances” section of the Player Participation Policy rule. This nebulous clause allows the league to investigate or impose discipline at its discretion during player participation cases.

This is a bizarre slap on the wrist for a sub-.500 Nets team playing the second half of a back-to-back. The fine rises to $1 million for all violations past the third, but isn’t meaningful until that third infraction. Even then, good teams – teams with actual star players worth resting – should be able to pay it off with ease.

Moreover, the Nets pretty much found the workaround to this rule at the same time they got fined. While Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, Johnson, and Claxton all drew ire from the league for sitting. Nothing, however, was said of Bridges, who played a season-low 12 minutes and was pulled immediately at the end of the first quarter. That is how you get around this: representation in the game, then a quick pull. If teams are smart, this should be the first and last fine stemming from the Player Participation Policy.

The game in question — the Nets lost 144-122 — kicked off a five-game losing streak that’s still active into the new year. The fine is just a salt in the wound – a pinch of salt, at that. 

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