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David Stern releases statement apologizing to fans for Spurs resting healthy stars against Heat

Nov 29, 2012, 8:38 PM EDT


When Gregg Popovich decided to rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili for Thursday night’s nationally televised game in Miami against the world champion Heat, it may have been disappointing, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise.

Popovich has done this for years, resting perfectly healthy players for no reason other than he feels it’s best for his team over the course of an 82-game season.

Exactly how much the rest of one November game will help his aging team in the postseason over five months from now remains to be seen, but there are currently no rules against dong so, so Popovich and the Spurs organization are well within their rights.

David Stern, however, didn’t seem to be as rational when delivering his statement on the matter, which was shown in a graphic on TNT prior to tip-off during the pregame show, and later sent out by the league in an official release.

“I apologize to all NBA fans,” the statement from Stern said. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”

Good for the league for putting its foot down on this issue. It’s completely ridiculous for fans to buy a ticket for one product, only to be bait-and-switched for no good reason at the last minute.

The fact that Spurs-Heat is a matchup between two of the league’s best teams and is being televised nationally on TNT also factors into the equation. The league’s broadcast partners pay a fortune for the right to televise the best teams playing one another, and having a coach willfully mess with one of these matchups is just bad for the league, pure and simple.

If resting San Antonio’s aging stars at the end of a road trip was Popovich’s main priority, he could have given them the night off on Wednesday against a dreadful Orlando Magic team that they very well might have beaten anyway. Then, the league, the fans, and TNT would have gotten their marquee matchup, and the Spurs players would have gotten their rest. In that scenario, everyone wins.

Instead, we have this controversy brewing where the league is trying to tell a coach how to manage his players, without any precedent, and without any rules in place that state it’s against policy to do what Popovich and the Spurs decided to.

To be clear, I’m firmly on the side of Stern and the league on this issue. I just don’t see how anything can be done about it now in terms of a fine or other sanctions being handed down, since there was nothing specifically in place prohibiting the Spurs actions.

If nothing else, this issue is now firmly on the league’s radar, and will likely be addressed with some sort of guidelines for teams to follow in future seasons, with penalties attached for non-compliance.

112 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. bovice23 - Nov 29, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    4 games in 5 days and Stern is upset that Pop is giving his vets the night off? Give me a break.

  2. dko83 - Nov 29, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    I’m on the fence on this one. Pop should be able to manage his guys however he chooses, while at the same time, fans (both live and TV) are seriously getting hosed. What does substantial sanctions mean anyway? Just another way of saying fines?

    • BigBeachBall - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      Would you still be on the fence if you had tickets to this game?

      • dko83 - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:45 PM


      • buckeye044 - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:59 PM

        I’ve been there. Went to see Bird and McCale and neither played. Was disappointed but I don’t remember Stern giving it any thought.

      • zerole00 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:26 AM

        If I was a Spurs fan? Yes, because they’ve always had a good bench (see final score of game), and I’d want them to have the best chance of winning a championship.

        Hell, the NBA has a bigger issue with owners who shouldn’t be owners putting out a piss poor product as far as concern for the fans go.

  3. bucrightoff - Nov 29, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    As if I didn’t love Popovich enough, this FU to the NBA is so awesome. The Heat get 4 days off and we’re playing 4 in 5? And Popovich is right there as the best coach ever with Phil and Red for a reason: He’s smart enough to know that besides resting his stars, he’s getting his entire roster valuable playing time against one of the leagues best teams, and at present they’re winning the freaking game! What happens if the Spurs win? How can Stern sanction them then? Screw you David.

    • ihavenonickname - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:02 PM

      I’m pretty shocked at your stance on this Brett. I read Stearn’s quote and I thought for sure this was the sign of a lame duck Commish officially falling off his rocker.

      Fan’s know the risk of buying tickets ahead of time (benching, injury, trades) but they don’t have any trouble selling em!

    • jedifriedchicken - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:16 PM

      Yeah, I feel bad for the fans, but I’ve never had a problem with Pops resting his aging stars. If the league doesn’t want this sort of thing to happen, they should do a better job of scheduling the games. The league isn’t worried so much about the players and the teams as they are about making that money though.

      Pissing off David Stern was a nice touch though. You still suck for screwing the Lakers out of Chris Paul.

  4. trippymane - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:01 PM


  5. savvybynature - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    This is BS. How can Stern overrule a coach and decide what is best for the Spurs or any other team?

    “If resting San Antonio’s aging stars at the end of a road trip was Popovich’s main priority, he could have given them the night off on Wednesday against a dreadful Orlando Magic team that they very well might have beaten anyway. Then, the league, the fans, and TNT would have gotten their marquee matchup”

    And Pop or any other coach should care about any of this because why? You really think, Brett, you can do Pop’s job better than he can? What a joke. His job is to put his team in the best position to win a championship, not please television sponsors or sports writers.

    And really if Stern didn’t see this coming, he is an idiot. Pop has done this for 3 seasons now, and the league scheduled 4 games for the Spurs since Sunday while the Heat haven’t had to play a game since Saturday. The Spurs probably lose this one regardless, so why not use it as a chance to get ready for a much more important conference game on Saturday?

    The league is completely out of bounds here to think they can start picking starting lineups for teams and mandating minutes to certain players. Last I checked the Spurs owners pay their players salaries, not Stern, so if they are happy with how they’re managed that’s all that matters. End of story.

  6. heathater4lifeson - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    David stern is an idiot. Spurs pay their players millions of dollars, they can decide to use them however they wish. Stern should apologize to the fans for having to watch the warriors in the second game. Would much rather watch the spurs second unit rather than the dubs

  7. lakerfan4life - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    Good for Pop! That’s why he’s one of the best coaches in the league today, he knows how and when to look out for his players! David Stern has never been anything but a shill for the owners, he certainly doesn’t care about the the players or the fans.

    So Pop is suppposed to play his top guys in their 4th game in 5 nights, against an Eastern Conference Miami Heat team that hasn’t played since last Saturday! So his team risks injuring over-used muscles tonight, and then has to go up against their inter-conference rival Grizzlies on Saturday, which by the way, is a much more meaningful game to the Spurs than tonight’s game. David Stern could care less if somebody gets injured in this game, as long as the league and the owners are getting their share of the TV revenue.

    This decision sounds like a no-brainer for Pop. He’s planning his boys to be full strength in June, not November. And believe me, David Stern will be much happier in June when that’s the case!

  8. timb12 - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    Are sanctions going to be handed out to the nuggets and warriors? I would rather watch this spurs heat game over that game with all their players healthy.

  9. ProjectDoubleGuns - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    Reblogged this on Double Guns.

  10. savvybynature - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    So in the future, the Spurs will have to check Duncan, et. al. into the the game for the tip off, and then can bench them for the rest of the night? What’s the point in that? Where do you draw the line?

    This is just stupid. It’s a meaningless Nov. game. The Spurs would rather go all out in the playoffs. Isn’t that what most fans want anyway?

    I hope the Spurs win anyway and then Stern and Brett can both go suck it!

  11. bratbeach - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    “Good for the league for putting its foot down on this issue. It’s completely ridiculous for fans to buy a ticket for one product, only to be bait-and-switched for no good reason at the last minute.”


    Putting their foot down on what issue? Coaches managing their players? Isn’t that their job? I wasn’t aware that there was a rule that said starters have to play x amount of minutes per game every game. Players miss games all the time. Players minutes are managed differently from games to game. As for “no good reason”, call me crazy but managing your players PT and health is not only part of the job but it’s also a very good reason.

    “If resting San Antonio’s aging stars at the end of a road trip was Popovich’s main priority, he could have given them the night off on Wednesday against a dreadful Orlando Magic team that they very well might have beaten anyway. Then, the league, the fans, and TNT would have gotten their marquee matchup, and the Spurs players would have gotten their rest. In that scenario, everyone wins.”

    In other words, you don’t care if coaches rest players for certain games as long as they’re not the games you’re interested in watching.

    • savvybynature - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:35 PM

      You have to love the hubris of this writer saying if the Spurs do this in Orlando then “everyone wins.”
      Lol. I guess Orlando fans are just a bunch of nobodies then.
      Pretty clear he is upset because HE was disappointed by the decision, not because of some benefit to the fans.

  12. chargerdillon - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    This is no different than what happens in week 16 and 17 of every football season, makes for a horrible television product, but good teams do it every year because they are good teams with SMART COACHES.

    Pop is the absolute best coach in the NBA right now, he’s like Belichek in New England with his don’t give a crap attitude, he does what he feels he needs to do. Does it look bad to rest your guys in the big highlight match, so what, it’s his call, his players, his way…. why? Check the rings.

  13. djeg07 - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    stern needs to let teams do what they need to do, no tampering, fining, conspiracy drafts. if they want to rest let them, but again its always about the $$$$.

  14. spideysdog - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    Brett, I’m a giant NBA fan and I think Stern is off his rocker here. This one is simple. There is no guarantee who will be available, healthy or play in any game. Every team in the league has different policies and systems. If this was a rookie coach or just another retread, MAYBE I could buy a little of the case you and Stern try to make, but for either Sterns lameduck fanny or yourself to question the long term success and proven methods of Pop is ridiculous. He wants to rest him, he is WELL within his rights.

    PS: I’m a Seattle Supersonics fan and can’t stand the Spurs.

  15. hybes1 - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    I think the Spurs will feel Sternapoloen’s wrath about sitting down Timmy D & the boys. Why not sit-out when they played the Wizards or heck, play a few minutes & then sit them. Not a good precedent especially when playing the Heat

  16. savvybynature - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    Meanwhile, no fines were levied against the Bobcats last year or the Wizards this year for hardly ever being competitive against anyone.

    Note to Stern: these perennially lousy teams are your problem, not Pop and the Spurs. You should be apologizing to their fans!

  17. dalucks - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Do not blame Greg Popovich. The problem starts with the people in New York who make the NBA schedule. A team should not play 6 games in a 10 day period in 5 different cities nor should any team play 4 games in 6 days in 3 different cities. David Stern never accepts blame for the screw ups of the people working in the NBA office. David Stern should have sanctions in his own office first. Greg Popovich did what he felt was best for the Spurs.

  18. katra2logic - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    I think it was Pop boldly announcing his intentions, discretion would have worked much better. The Spurs could have come in, played Miami and quietly rested their players without much fuss.

  19. Zammael - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    The NBA is a business where stars are its product. It’s not about winning games. Moreover, the NBA is responsible for investors, and the networks / corporations don’t like this.

    • beavertonsteve - Nov 30, 2012 at 2:46 AM

      I think you’re confusing the NBA with the WWE.

      • Zammael - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        I think you’re confusing naive homerism with the reality of the situation.


  20. sbmcintosh36 - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Love Pop but what’s with all the Stern bashing don’t any of you remember when he took over?? Of course you don’t because we only saw it the next day or at midnight tape delay the NBA was a joke when he took the job and he had the brain to hitch to the right wagons of Bird, Magic and Jordan no one else did and they had countless players to do the same like Doc or Kareem , yeah he’s in the wrong here but c’mon give the guy some credit you could have Bud or Bettman or Goodell making up crap to get back at a team ie bounty gate

  21. banggbiskit - Nov 29, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    So let me get this straight. Stern wants teams to treat all 82 regular season games as ‘playoff games’ when he has 8 teams from each conference who make the actual playoffs? Seems a bit hypocritical. If you want all 82 to matter greatly, you have to limit the amount of teams who make the playoffs.

    If you want to make ‘extra money’ by having tons of playoff games and rounds, you’re going to have to take the good with the bad. I support Pop’s decision, it was brilliant, if i’m a fan of San Antonio, i applaud this move from one of the NBA’s greatest coaches.

    I’d be happy if i was paying money to see this game in Miami as a Heat fan…i just want to win the game, and if the other team is going to rest players, im all for it. As a fan i want to WIN the game, that’s the most important thing.

    • Zammael - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:04 PM

      As i write this, Spurs up 76-73. It’ll be hilarious if they win and Stern fines them. :)

  22. mydoglouie - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    World champion…

  23. jssgriffi - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    This guy is a f***ing communist

  24. Neftali Ramos - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    I don’t see how the author can agree with David Stern on this issue. How can the commish tell a team how to use its players?

  25. tdrundmc - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:06 PM

    David Stern is a weasel. GFY.

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