Just hours before players were supposed to be on the Miami court to begin warm-ups, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green were on a plane headed back to San Antonio to prepare for the first game back on their home floor against Memphis. This created a manufactured uproar in the commissioner’s office and David Stern promised to avenge the poor fans of the Miami Heat and all those watching at home. There would be “significant sanctions” against Gregg Popovich and the Spurs franchise for choosing to rest their stars for a game on national television.
On Friday, David Stern released this statement with his announcement that the San Antonio Spurs would be fined $250,000.
“The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case. The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.”
Before going into all the reasons that Pop and the Spurs were RIGHT for sending “four of their top players” home prior to the game, let’s take a look at the statement itself. My favorite part is the perceived responsibility that Stern implies the Spurs had to inform the media and the league office, I’ll get to the Heat later. The Spurs don’t owe the media some kind of 48 hour notice on the whereabouts of Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and Green. Popovich knows what he is doing and has shown he knows when it is appropriate to rest his stars. Not to mention that the “early-season” part seems to mean something to Stern. The only reason he included that is to give him an out for the end of the season when division winners rest their stars and the worst teams go into tank mode to ensure a high lottery chance for the draft.
Four games in five nights…on the road…for one of the oldest rosters in the league…with a history of resting it’s stars. What was the league thinking when they created this stretch for the Spurs? Did they REALLY believe that Popovich wasn’t going to rest Duncan, at least? No, This was so glaringly obvious of a decision, I didn’t blink an eye at the decision by the Spurs when I read it hours before game time. Don’t forget for a second that their next game was against a division and conference rival in the Memphis Grizzlies. Why waste your last stores of energy of your veteran stars against the top team in the league when a win or loss is almost inconsequential to your playoff chances. The game against Memphis is the only thing that mattered to Pop.
The big message that seems to be pervading the media right now is whether or not teams owe something to the fans. You better believe they do, they owe them their best effort of WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS. They don’t owe the individual fan at the stadium to always play their stars, there is a reason that you can’t get a refund on your ticket purchase for being unhappy, unless you’re a desperate team like the Suns throwing money at fans to come to games. Let’s keep one thing in mind, this was a Miami Heat home game, all of these games were sold out before the season began. Miami doesn’t even have ticket office interns or paid workers because the tickets sell themselves. They weren’t there to see Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. They were there to see LeBron, Wade and Bosh. As much as Tim Duncan is one of the greatest ever, I doubt he sells too many tickets because people want to see him display the greatest fundamentals in the NBA.
Don’t think for one second that Stern would have sent down this hefty fine if this game wasn’t being nationally televised. Stern immediately got 1500 calls from all the corporate sponsors and advertisers complaining about how no one was going to watch anymore. If this game was being broadcast only on local channels, we never would have heard a peep from Stern. It always is and always will be about the money.
Did I mention that the depleted San Antonio team without its “four top players” was up 76-73 going into the 4th and only lost 105-100? It was only one of the more exciting games of this young season, but don’t tell that to Stern, he is just happy that the Spurs didn’t pull the upset or his foot would have been lodged so tightly in his mouth he wouldn’t have been able to utter the statement to fine the Spurs.
“Congratulations on your amazing, improbable, short-handed win San Antonio. However, you made the television ratings for the first three quarters go down because you chose to rest your big draws (you can snicker, it’s okay, great players aren’t always big draws), therefore, I am fining you $250,000, good luck in your next game! Fell free to rest your stars next time you’re not on national T.V.” (Not a real quote…just sayin’)
Adam Silver…paging Adam Silver, your elderly friend seems to be yelling at random patrons for hiding his cheese, please take him home and put him to bed.