As much as Brandon Roy, Chris Bosh or Andrew Bogut, Doc Rivers would qualify as sort of an expert on late-season injuries.
Doc Rivers got the scar on his right thumb on the last day of the 1992-93 season in a game that was more or less meaningless aside from the fact that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference — his New York Knicks and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls — were playing their season finale on national TV.
It’s not like Knicks coach Pat Riley wanted to play his starters when he didn’t have to (the Knicks had already clinched the top spot in the East with 59 wins). The league forced him to.
“They basically threatened that back then you had to play,” Rivers said.”Everybody had to play, Jordan had to play in the game that was completely meaningless.”
Patrick Ewing played 40 minutes, and the Knicks “won” 89-84. But John Starks dislocated his left middle finger and Rivers tore a ligament in his thumb.
Rivers said, “I remember Riley saying that will never ever happen again.”
Rivers has adopted the same philosophy.
“You’ve got to play somebody,” Rivers said. “But that will always have an affect on me. There’s a chance we could be playing for something [Wednesday]. If we had everything clinched, after what I went through and other guys on our team getting injured, there’s no way I would play guys. I wouldn’t take the chance.”
Rivers rested Kevin Garnett Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks and will monitor him closely tonight against the Bulls, but with a wave of injuries knocking out star players on a handful of playoff teams, Rivers wants to be cautious.
He also has personal experience to draw from. The Knicks won that season-ending battle, but when the two teams met again in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls won 4-2.
“It’s my memory,” Rivers said. “Every time I think about playing guys I just look down.”