David Stern opened Pandora’s Box by promising to punish Spurs for resting starters
Imagine your parents telling you that they aren’t going to give you any of the top four items on your Christmas wish list. Instead, they inform you that they decided to save money for the future and just get you some small, practical gifts.
That’s basically what San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told NBA fans last night when he didn’t play his four best players (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green) in TNT’s primetime game against the Heat. On top of that, Popovich sent the four players home to San Antonio to rest. They weren’t even on the bench.
While the move was disappointing to NBA fans looking forward to a great matchup of top teams, Popovich simply made a coaching decision to rest his aging (excluding Green), top players. He did nothing wrong.
Last season, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver told USA Today Sports that, “Strategic resting of particular players on a particular night is within the discretion of the teams.”
Apparently NBA commissioner David Stern didn’t get that memo. Before the game even tipped off, Stern issued this statement, “I apologize to all NBA fans, this was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
Exactly how was Popovich’s decision to rest his best players in the midst of a grueling road trip an “unacceptable decision?” It was unfair to the fans who purchased tickets to see the best power forward of all-time come play the Heat in Miami. However, that’s life, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. What the Spurs did was completely fine.
But, here comes the kicker. The Spurs almost won the game.
Popovich and his gang came out fighting, they wanted to win this game and show Stern a thing or two. San Antonio was more than competitive for the whole game; they had the lead until Ray Allen knocked down a three via a LeBron dish to give Miami the lead with 22.6 seconds left.
If San Antonio would’ve pulled off the win, it would’ve been a signature moment in Popovich’s illustrious career. He has been known to go against the grain. The Spurs have never played with flash, nothing about the Spurs has ever been sexy. But, they always contend. Coach Pop has four rings; he knows what he’s doing. If he says that his stars need a rest, his stars need a rest.
Stern may have opened Pandora ’s Box with his decision to give San Antonio “substantial sanctions.” The Spurs aren’t deserving of that. But, there is a team that does deserve it, acording to Stern’s logic.
The Washington Wizards won their first game on Nov. 28. They are currently 1-12. The Wizards do not put a quality product on the court. Their players don’t seem to be invested in the team. If anything, Stern should fine the Wizards, every time they take the court.
The Commisioner will now be faced with the decision of when to fine teams if they rest players. Suppose the Heat have the East locked up and decide to sit Wade and LeBron for a game at the end of the season, does that warrant a fine? Should teams be fined for giving players ample time to heal up from an injury? What if a team appears to be tanking for a higher draft pick? The line is too blury now.
Stern has globalized basketball and has been essential to the game’s popularity growth, but he really messed up here.
Popovich played by the rules, but Stern got upset that his product was being watered down on national TV, and he overreacted.