CLEVELAND — All season long, power forward Trevor Booker has been the Nets’ energy guy on defense and under the boards, but his wattage was unplugged from the starting lineup against the defending NBA champion Cavaliers on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Just as the Nets did with Brook Lopez on Tuesday night in Toronto, the team made a decision to rest a healthy Booker for the first time this season.
The only other game Booker missed was because of illness. “It’s the philosophy of our whole team,” coach Kenny Atkinson said of prescribed rest periods. “We look at each case individually. Tonight’s his turn. I look at it as an opportunity for other guys to step up, Anthony Bennett, [Luis] Scola, Justin [Hamilton].”
Hamilton, who has been mired in a terrible shooting slump, got the start. Hamilton had eight points (shooting 3-for-11 from the field) and six rebounds in 19 minutes.
Booker leads the Nets in double-doubles with 10, but in his previous five games, he reached double-digits in scoring once and in rebounding once. It begged the question whether Booker’s rest was planned or a reaction to a numbers decline.
“No, I think it’s planned,” Atkinson said. “It’s something we talked about on a daily basis. We go through our roster with our performance team, with our coaches and where guys are in the schedule. I’d say it was planned.”
n J.R. has surgery
The Cavaliers were without starting guard J.R. Smith, who on Friday had surgery to repair a right thumb fracture suffered Monday. According to the club, he’ll be out 10 to 12 weeks, which means he might miss the rest of the regular season.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue shrugged off the loss, saying, “Next man up.” Lue, however, said Iman Shumpert will continue to come off the bench because he doesn’t want him getting in early foul trouble. As Lue said, “I don’t want to mess that up.” DeAndre Liggins (three points) started for Smith.