Saturday, December 1, 2012

'Rest So Hard David Stern Wanna Fine Me?'

Maybe Pop will learn now, a little courtesy goes a long way.
Gregg Popovich is a great basketball coach, and I respect his demeanor and the way he goes about teaching and motivating his players, but I can no longer consider myself a fan of his. On a night where his San Antonio Spurs were scheduled to face off against the defending champion Miami Heat in South Beach, Pop announced Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green were sent back to Texas and would not play in the game, because he wanted to "rest" them.  Granted, it was the fourth game in five days, (the three previous games of the road trip examined later in this post) for the Spurs, with all games played on the road, and the Heat game in particular coming on the second night of a back-to-back.  Despite all of that, my initial reaction was, 'It's November and you're resting players? That's nonsense!'

I know that strategizing for a possible Finals matchup with Miami was a possible reason for this, because you don't want to 'show' them anything they can get a book on.  But it's freaking November!  Should you not have any obligation to the league and it's fans that pay you/made you who you are today by putting the best quality basketball on the floor each night? How different is this than teams that tank?
People have defended Pop, saying, 'he always does this', but he's not the only coach in the league with key players that are older and, as far as i know, he's the only one that does this. If it were after February, it probably wouldn't have solicited a response from NBA commissioner David Stern, but "resting" players in November that people pay good money to see, for an NBA showcase game, comes off as a bit of a spiteful gesture to the leaugue and its fans.

Furthermore, the timing of when Popovich announced that those guys weren't gonna play is very suspicious.  The NBA schedule has been out for weeks now.  Pop knew that this was gonna be the fourth game in five days and his best players are old.  He had to know that announcing that he was sitting his best four players for a showcase NBA game, like half-an-hour before tip-off, would rub some people the wrong way.  (The league should implement a policy in which you must announce players' game time status in a timeley manner.  You have to do it in the NFL, why not in the NBA?)  Could've been done after the previous game in Orlando Wednesday night at the postgame presser.  Could've been done before shootaround on Thursday.  Common courtesy was so evidently void in the situation that Stern reacted in a way that most humans do when they feel disrespected:  he overreacted.

To fine a team for something that is an unwritten rule, and as substantially as 250k, comes off as a power trip move on Stern's part.  He definitely took Pop's move as an indirect shot at himself.

Look, it's not that I think Pop hasn't earned the respect in the league to be able to have carte-blanche when it comes to his team and do whatever he feels is in the best interest of his team.  Rather, I simply do not subscribe to this kind of childish/spiteful behavior.  I'm not naive enough to think that Pop's decision was purely strategy, and in no way was a sideways shot at Stern, the league, and the fans.

BONUS MATERIAL:  We already know that the Heat game was the fourth game in five days.  I got curious as to see what the previous three games were and what the minute distribution was between the players that were held out.  Here's what I dug up.

@ Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 7:00 PM EST: 110-89
Duncan: 27 minutes (DNP 4th quarter)
Parker: 29 minutes (DNP 4th quarter)
Ginobili: 23 minutes
Green: 31 minutes

No opponent, Tuesday, Nov. 27

@ Washington Wizards, Monday, Nov. 26, 7:00 PM EST: 118-92 (W)
Duncan: 23 minutes (DNP 4th quarter)
Parker: 22 minutes (DNP 4th quarter)
Ginobili: 20 minutes
Green: 17 minutes (DNP 4th quarter)

Quotes from after the Wizards game: "What are you guys talking to him for? He played like half the game!" -- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich walking past Tony Parker, who was talking to reporters about the role Boris Diaw played in the win.
"It's just great to sit there in the fourth quarter, especially after the game we had last night," – Spurs center Tim Duncan talking about the double-overtime game the previous day against the Toronto Raptors.

@ Toronto Raptors, Sunday, Nov. 25, 1:00 PM EST: 111-106, 2OT (W)
Duncan: 41 minutes
Parker: 46 minutes
Ginobili: 36 minutes
Green: 48 minutes

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