The Orlando Magic have nothing left to play for. Really. The third seed in the Eastern Conference is theirs. They can't move up. They can't move down. So with 5 essentially meaningless games left in the season, should coach Stan Van Gundy consider resting his key players so they'll be ready for the playoffs?
Brian Schmitz has an article on that subject in this morning's Orlando Sentinel. Stan doesn't want to give the stars a break, and for a variety of reasons:
"Yeah, they need a little bit of rest here and we've been giving them days off. But at the same time, I don't think they can play 24 minutes [per game] the rest of the way and then be in shape to play 40-42 minutes when the playoffs start."
"Games keep them sharp more than anything," he said. "I also think you also have to be cognizant of your fans. Those people who bought the tickets for that night are paying the same price as somebody bought in February, and I'm not sure they want to hear, 'Well, this is why we're resting guys.'"
I tend to agree with Stan... to a point, anyway. The Magic indeed owe it to themselves to play hard every night as they tune-up for the playoffs, especially next Wednesday night, when they face the Washington Wizards in what may be a first-round playoff preview. Additionally, they owe it to the fans both at home and away to play their best players. The Detroit Pistons do not share this philosophy, as they deactivated their trio of All-Stars in a game against the Timberwolves last week... and won.
However, last Sunday, when it became apparent the Magic's starters were mailing it in against the dreadful New York Knicks, Stan should have taken them out and let the reserves get some garbage minutes. There's no reason to leave Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and the other regular rotation players on the floor late in a blowout game. To his credit, Stan recognized his error after the game, telling Schmitz he was regretted not taking them out earlier.
So, where do you stand? Should Stan give the starters more rest down the stretch? Or should he play his normal rotation?