Most of the time in the NBA, if a team’s star players are going to miss a game due to injury, they will still accompany their teammates to the arena and either receive treatment in the locker room while the game is going on, or wear a suit and represent on the sidelines.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, apparently, are two of the exceptions.
Neither was healthy enough to face their former head coach Doc Rivers on Saturday in Los Angeles, after playing heavy minutes the night before during an overtime win in Phoenix. And thanks to a policy Rivers himself put in place in Boston, neither player bothered to make the trip to Staples Center to support their teammates.
From J.A. Adande of ESPN.com:
It would have made for some good TV video to get shots of Garnett and Pierce hugging their old mentor before or after the game, but the individuals involved didn’t need it. They stay in touch through their cell phones (Rivers prefers texting, because he says it doesn’t allow Garnett to swear at him as much). Garnett and Pierce weren’t even in Staples Center for the Clippers’ victory over the depleted Nets. Their absence in itself was just like the old days.
“I know when Kevin doesn’t play he never comes to the game,” Rivers said. “Paul either for that matter. That’s something we set up in Boston.
Now the Brooklyn Nets have to deal with it.”
This isn’t to rip the Nets or these two veteran superstars, but it is an interesting look at the way things are handled from team to team around the league.
Rivers has always been a players’ coach, and giving veterans a perk like that on a team that has strong leadership from the head coaching position makes some sense. Gregg Popovich in San Antonio has famously flown players home after shootaround in advance of a road game where they aren’t going to play.
But on a team like the Nets that has a ton of new pieces and is trying to establish both locker room chemistry and a way of doing things under an unproven rookie head coach, one would think it might be a good idea to stick around and use that time to bond a little, even if they’re unable to play due to injury.