Giannis Antetokounmpo wanted to play in Game 5 against the Miami Heat, but Mike Budenholzer said there was no way the Milwaukee Bucks were going to risk their star.
Without Antetokounmpo (ankle), the Bucks bowed out of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after a 103-94 loss to the Heat sealed a 4-1 series defeat on Tuesday.
The reigning NBA MVP was ruled out just before the game, but Bucks head coach Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo wanted to play.
"Giannis always wants to play, he's never going to pull himself and there was a plan today," he told a news conference.
"We had to look and put our heads together and listen to Giannis, but listen to our sports performance group led by Troy Flanagan and ultimately Jon Horst is our GM and myself and we couldn't let Giannis go out there. He's not ready, he's not healthy [and] we can't put him at risk.
"Giannis would always play, he wants to be there for his team-mates so really, really hard for Giannis, but I think it was pretty clear from everybody's, probably except for his, perspective what needed to happen."
The playoff exit was a disappointing finish to the campaign for the Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record at 56-17.
Milwaukee also led the protests that saw the playoffs postponed last month as they called for justice for Jacob Blake, who was shot by police in Wisconsin.
Budenholzer was emotional when speaking about his players, saying: "I think what the team stands for and I think the character, the humanity to stand and be on the right side of history like we did led by George [Hill] and Sterling [Brown] and that was emotional and it's such a great group.
"Winning is important, we had high expectations starting the season, throughout the season, coming here, you always want to realise those expectations. But the relationships, the character, what this group did, I think it would be great if you could have both, but I think if you're going to choose one, I'd like to be with guys who had character and stand for something."