Was Spurs' Popovich wrong to sit star players?
NOV 30, 2012 3:47p ET
The league docked San Antonio a cool $250,000 on Friday for upsetting Lord Stern by sending four Spurs home Thursday night instead of suiting up at Miami. The Spurs, according to Stern, "did a disservice to the league and our fans" by not telling a soul of their vacation plans in a timely matter.
Somehow the "best interests of the NBA" trumped the best interest of the Spurs. San Antonio's one visit to Miami and it being so early in the season also factored into Stern's quarter-million dollar spanking.
Just remember kids, parents sometimes make mistakes, too. The league is in the wrong here. They'll just never admit it.
Stars routinely don't suit during those otherwise meaningless exhibitions in October, though tickets are still at full regular-season prices. Why the double-standard Thursday night?
A November game might as well be the preseason for the Spurs, so it doesn't matter that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker weren't there. The game being in Miami and on national TV is immaterial here.
The Spurs and Gregg Popovich, in particular, are focused on much more than ratings. (The organization and the coach at the center of the storm declined comment Friday.)
It was the fourth game in five nights, and Coach Pop decided it was best to save some wear and tear on his Three Amigos. So after Wednesday's win at Orlando, the Spurs booked a commercial flight home for those three plus Danny Green.
Pop, like father, knows best.
Stern doesn't see it that way. The league argues for the integrity of the game being comprised and protecting the fans. I doubt Heat fans and players were too upset with the stripped-down Spurs lineup. If anyone was blowing a gasket, steam surely billowed from the network boys in bed with the NBA.
Complaints out of Atlanta, not South Beach, no doubt coerced Stern's sternly-worded warning.
TV and league pressure won't bully Popovich. And it shouldn't. Stern jumping the gun in his abolishment of the Spurs and, in point of fact, Pop rings hollow considering the precedent already set.
Pop sat Timmy, Manu and Tony last season. They weren't hurt. They just needed nights off. As one infamous box score read back in March, Duncan missed a game with the official reason listed as "DNP-Old."
The members of the Spurs' championship trio were each out three games during the lockout-condensed season principally to rest and recover. No one griped then. If Thursday's game was at Detroit, no one gripes now.
The Spurs weren't disciplined last season for not taking Duncan, Ginobili and Parker on a road trip. NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said this summer that strategically resting players is within a coach's right, while adding he wouldn't second guess a coach of Popovich's stature.
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the NBA Coaches Association, isn't about to second guess his South Texas colleague. Oh yeah, the San Antonio JV almost beat the Heat.
"I am always going to work to protect coaches and decisions coaches make to protect their teams," Carlisle said. "The NBA will undoubtedly examine all the facts before making any decision on this matter. The fact that San Antonio played such a great game and were in position to win with their depth players is extremely impressive."
Popovich is well within his right as the guardian of the Silver & Black to deal with his boys as he sees fit. He knows he's team better than Stern or anyone else. Popovich's commitment to his players is reciprocated by those guys wearing shorts.
The Spurs might not have the best talent in the league and might not win the title this year. But show me a team that plays any harder for its coach. Show me a group of men who will defend their coach more than the Spurs stand up for Pop.
So when a lockout-like stretch of four games in five nights pops up, Popovich can send whomever he wants home for an extra night in their own beds.
And what exactly was lost Thursday night by those not in Miami? It's one out of 82. Just 1.2 percent of the schedule. The Spurs are playing for much more than one game at the end of the season's first full month.
This is their preseason. Admission should be free.
Follow Art Garcia on Twitter: @ArtGarcia92