Pat Riley was incensed by the $25,000 fine the NBA levied against the Lakers because he didn't play Magic Johnson and James Worthy in the final regular-season game at Portland, a meaningless contest for both teams.
"I have an obligation to our management," the Lakers coach said Tuesday. "I decide who the heck I want to play."If (the league) is going to start getting in the way of who I want to play and when I want to play them, maybe they ought to come out here and put on the coach's shirt themselves . . .
"I'm sort of beside myself on this," Riley said. "Obviously, a new rule has been made, a new precedent set. I didn't do it out of disregard for the league. I did it for the well-being of our players. They do it (rest starters in meaningless games) in other sports."
A statement issued Tuesday in New York by NBA Commissioner David Stern said the Lakers were being fined "for failing to play two healthy players who are normally starters" in Sunday night's game.
Johnson and Worthy went through pregame warmups, as did Mychal Thompson, another starter, but all three sat out and the result was a 130-88 victory by the Trail Blazers, the most one-sided defeat in Lakers' history.
Thompson, the Lakers' starting center who was not mentioned in the statement, had missed four games earlier this month because of a knee injury. He did play 23 minutes during the Lakers' 125-115 victory over the Clippers Saturday night.
Riley said he rested the players because he didn't want to risk an injury to a significant player before Friday night's playoff opener against the Houston Rockets.
The move didn't sit well with Trail Blazers president Harry Glickman.
"I think (Riley) cheated the fans," Glickman said. "I think it (the fine) was a very appropriate action for the commissioner to take. I felt all along the commissioner would take some kind of action.
"I hope that it sends a message to the Lakers and to all of us that you don't do those kinds of things."
Byron Scott, another Lakers starter, didn't make the trip to Portland because he suffered a sprained left ankle last Thursday night during a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In response to the league's action, the Lakers issued a statement saying that in addition to paying the fine, team owner Jerry Buss wished to apologize to Trail Blazer fans.
"I know that our fans would have been disappointed had the same thing happened here," Buss was quoted as saying in the statement.
Scott didn't play at all in last June's NBA Finals against Detroit because of a hamstring injury, and Johnson suffered a similar injury in the second game of the series. Johnson missed the third game and played briefly and ineffectively in the fourth and final game of the Pistons' sweep.
"It really was an insignificant game for us," Riley said after the game at Portland. "I do want to apologize to the Portland fans. They paid their money to see us play. But this game was bigger than that for us. I had a gut feeling that we might get (injuries) if we played our guys. It's always a war up here."
Rod Thorn, the NBA's vice president for operations, had said Monday that the league levied fines in 1985 when Riley held Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson out of a season-ending game at Kansas City.
"I can understand (being fined for) not bringing players, which is what happened before," Riley said. "But they never said anything then about not playing them."
Glickman was critical of Riley's move on Sunday night and said the Trail Blazers received a number of calls from fans on Monday about the decision.
Portland sold out Memorial Coliseum for the game, and sold tickets at two sports bars and a downtown theater to more fans.
The game also was offered to Trail Blazers' fans on a pay-per-view basis on a local cable television service.