Cleveland sits both stars in regular-season finale

LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal will make their next

appearance together in the playoffs.

Both James and O’Neal were sitting out Cleveland’s

regular-season finale against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night,

coach Mike Brown announced after the teams’ morning

shootaround.

While Brown worried about a lack of chemistry heading into the

playoffs, he was more concerned about the top-seeded Cavaliers

sustaining a needless injury to one of their key players.

When asked how close he came to suiting up either player against

the Hawks, Brown said, “It was not close at all.”

The regular-season finale means nothing to either team. The

Cavaliers have already locked up the No. 1 spot in the East and

home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, while Atlanta has

clinched the No. 3 seed in the conference.

The Hawks were expected to sit most of their starters, as well,

turning the last game of the regular season into little more than

an exhibition.

James, who was to miss his fourth straight game, hasn’t played

since Cleveland clinched everything it could heading into the

playoffs. The Cavaliers were mindful of getting him as much rest as

he could after he sat out only the final game last season – and his

team was upset by Orlando in the conference finals.

O’Neal hasn’t played since Feb. 25 because of a sprained right

thumb, and Brown toyed with the idea of getting the 38-year-old

center at least a few minutes before the playoffs started.

In the end, the fear of injury prompted the coach to give O’Neal

the night off.

“The final decision – good or bad – rests on my shoulders,”

Brown said. “You never know if it’s going to be a struggle for

them to come back and play together.”

James, who did not speak with the media, has been practicing

regularly and he wrapped up the shootaround by dunking a flip-flop

and trying a few trick shows from the bench.

Joking around with his teammates, he feigned frustration at not

being able to play Wednesday.

“I’m rested, man,” he said. “I’m ready to get back on the

court. My Atlanta fans want to see me.”