AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- To rest and prepare for the playoffs or go for their first 50-win season in four decades will be answered soon by Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who will hold shootaround Monday morning at The Palace.
The Wizards (48-32) are locked into the fourth spot in the East with nothing to play for but the benchmark which could go alongside their first division title in 38 years. It'll be the Detroit Pistons final game at the venue which they've played at since the 1988-89 season.
But the bigger issue for the Wizards isn't rest. It's playing well. They've played badly as soon as they ended their weeklong All-Star vacation, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz in abysmmal performances.
That supposedly was because of too much rest.
Then when the Wizards began a five-game road trip 4-0, they lost four of their next five.
That allegedly was because of fatigue.
"It's very rare in my opinion," Brooks said recently of the need to rest otherwise healthy players in an 82-game seson. "You're talking basketball. It's 32 minutes a night. This is not hard work. This is fun. Rest? To me, rest is a good night's sleep."
Brooks has a difficult decision because while it won't hurt to allow John Wall and Bradley Beal, among others, to get a breather then they're out of step with the other starters.
There will be a few days between the end of the regular season and the start of the first round of the playoffs where Brooks can squeeze in practices. He has been lenient with his team in the second half of the season and has cut practice time to compensate for the road trips and back-to-back sets at the end.
"The rest thing, it's blown out of proportion in my opinion," Brooks said. "You're talking about a game that we love. We do it every day in the summer. These players play every day in the summer for two hours. Some of them go back at night and play another hour-and-a-half working on their game individually. So the rest, I get it certain cases. If you're banged up and your body needs to recuperate and get healthy, absolutely. We have to do that. To me if you're just resting as a badge of honor I don't kow if that's the right thing to do."
Otto Porter (back spasms) and Markieff Morris (ankle) have sat, but Wall and Beal haven't been healthier this late in a season in their careers. Marcin Gortat, at 32 the oldest on the roster, had been logging heavy minutes but has recently seen his court time decrease to about 23 minutes in his last 15 appearances.
It would be surprising to see Wall and Beal play much more than 30 minutes, but these are games where Brooks might feel more comfortable in experimenting with new combinations or tweaks in the play-calling for the postseason run. He can do both: Cut their minutes but fine-tune his key players while getting role players more work.
What's the good of resting starters for the playoffs if they return to play with the same disconnect that they've shown at times on the offensive end and repeatedly on the defensive end?
Brooks has his team's pulse better than anyone. He sees things and knows things about them that no one else will. If he thinks his starters need to play, it's rather arrogant to suggest from the armchairs across America that he's wrong.
The Golden State Warriors didn't lose the NBA title last year because they went for 73 wins. They lost because they were undisciplined with a 3-1 series lead, Steph Curry threw a brainless behind-the-back pass at the end of Game 7 that went out of bounds and before that Draymond Green got suspended for stupid after kicking LeBron James. Only when they lost came the convenient narrative that they ran out of gas going for the single-season wins record.
Given how many things Brooks has gotten right in what's a 48-win season thus far, a height that no one projected before the season began, he has earned that benefit of the doubt. And if they want to go for 50, so be it.
If the Wizards lose a series, it's going to be because the other team was better. It won't be because they didn't take off tonight vs. Detroit and Wednesday in Miami.