Commissioner David Stern threw a fit about the decision and is dropping the hammer.
“I apologize to all NBA fans,” he said in a statement issued before the game. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
Popovich emphasized that the Spurs were not simply mailing it in because Miami is a tough opponent, but because of scheduling and old age. Thursday’s game was the fourth in five nights for the Spurs, and it marks the end of a six-game road trip. They have another big game at home against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.
“We didn’t do it because it’s the Miami Heat,” Popovich told the media before the game. “It has nothing to do with the Miami Heat or TV or anybody. You deal with the schedule the best you can and do the wisest thing for your particular team.
“If our best players were 23 years old or 25 years old, we might have done something different.”
Popovich is resting Tim Duncan, who is 36 years old; Tony Parker, who is 30; Manu Ginobili, who is 35; and Danny Green, who is 25. All have played at least 20 minutes per game during San Antonio’s five-game winning streak.
Resting his older players is something Pop has been doing for a few years. It’s not like this is a new strategy for him.
TNT commentators Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller defended Pop’s decision, and so do I.
I think it’s completely out of line for Stern to try to tell Popovich how to manage his players. NFL teams frequently rest star players towards the end of the season after clinching playoff spots regardless of whether they’re on national TV in primetime games. Whether the strategy works is debatable, but what is not debatable is whether a coach has a right to determine his players’ minutes.
If Stern is worried about fans not getting their money’s worth, he shouldn’t be; anyone watching still gets to see LeBron James and the Heat, which makes most tickets worth buying. And if he wants November regular-season games matter this much, then maybe he should limit the number of teams that make the playoffs. Also, why isn’t Stern looking at his scheduling people? Why did his office give the Spurs four games in five nights and put them on national TV against the Heat in November if he wanted the teams to be at their peaks? He should be reprimanding his schedulers instead of San Antonio.
Lastly, how can Stern release the statement before the game is played? For one day, who’s to say San Antonio’s secondary players can’t beat the Heat? The commissioner is clearly saying that the entertainment factor is much more important than anything else in the NBA, which is why they’ve been upset about the success of the “boring” Spurs all these years.
Photo credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIREGoogle+