Playing their fourth game in five nights was too much, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decided. So, he sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green home to San Antonio to rest, holding them out of what should have been a marquis matchup against the Miami Heat on Thursday.
“It’s the best thing for our team,” Popovich said before the game. “Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule. We’ve done this before in hopes we’re making a wiser decision and not a macho decision. Perhaps, it’ll give us an opportunity to stay on the floor with Memphis on Saturday night.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern didn’t agree.
“I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said. “This was an unaceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
Stern wasn’t kidding. On Friday, the league released the following statement:
NEW YORK, Nov. 30, 2012 — The NBA announced today that the San Antonio Spurs organization has been fined $250,000 for its decision to send four players home prior to the Spurs’ Nov. 29 game in Miami. The Spurs’ actions were in violation of a league policy, reviewed with the NBA Board of Governors in April 2010, against resting players in a manner contrary to the best interests of the NBA.
NBA Commissioner David Stern stated: “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.”
Making this flap even more curious is that it’s happened before. It’s common practice for teams to rest their stars in April when their playoff position has been set, and it’s never drawn this much attention, or this kind of fine.
Last season, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the Spurs would not be disciplined after electing not to bring Duncan, Parker and Ginobili to a road game against the Utah Jazz. Popovich also held his top three players out of three games for rest last season.
“The strategic resting of particular players on particular nights is within the discretion of the teams,” Silver told NBA.com in April, adding the caveat that it was a lockout-shortened season. “And,” Silver continued “Gregg Popovich in particular is probably the last coach that I would second guess.”
In other news, the Heat won the game on Thursday, 105-100.