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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

David-Stern-all-star-2012

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. pellypell - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    Has anyone said that Stern is an idiot yet?

    He has zero authority to dictate if and when certain players play.

  2. clevelandschronic2 - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    But its ok to stern if all the stars join one team. Ala Miami LA NY?? While the rest if the league is considered JV teams. Cant have it both ways stern. You F**Kin Tool

  3. banggbiskit - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    Another factor here is the standing of the Spurs at the current moment. If the Spurs were a few games UNDER .500 right now and looking in from the outside, this game would be a game they NEED to win. But, if you look at their current position in the Western Conf standings, its fairly obvious that a loss here isnt going to hurt them at all, They are in zero danger of NOT making the playoffs, this is a meaningless game as far as their current position goes.

    This should be a factor in the ‘punishment’. I think it might be a smidge different if SA “needed” the game.

  4. mike2k - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:13 PM

    Mr pollakoff, I bet if I flipped through your many NBA articles over the years you’d probably have wished the boring slow Spurs don’t make the finals. Please, find something that matters to complain about. You know who is ok with this? All Spurs fans. How David Stern can punish the Spurs for this when their clearly is no rule is a complete mystery to me.

    I love the big middle finger Pop gave Stern and the NBA. Best coach ever

  5. tchillen - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    This may just be echoing what everyone else is saying, but I couldn’t disagree with you more Brett. Everyone else has addressed the main issues with what you’re saying, so I’ll just mention this.

    “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”

    That actually shouldn’t factor into it at all. This is Pop’s team. He should coach it independently of anything arbitrary. Not sure if you’ve heard, but Pop has proven himself more than enough.

    By the way, 83-83 as I’m typing this.

  6. lakerluver - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    Pop has been pulling this crap for years. My question is, if he’s so smart why hasn’t this little tactic worked lately? 2007 was a long time ago.

    • cramsinned - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      Your opinion is not needed in here

  7. fventricle - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    One solution would be for the NBA to make the Spurs purchase tickets for all the fans who did not get to see the stars play today. This way the league can impose a “substantial sanction” while allowing Pop to do what he wants with his team (he should be allowed to).

  8. heathater4lifeson - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Will he still fine the spurs when they win?

  9. hojo20 - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    Spurs by 6, but I’m waiting for the refs to start calling every foul on SA.

  10. charlutes - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    Most amazing night of my life. Pop’s scrubs beat the heat and scold Stern. Thank you god.

  11. deadeyedesign23 - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    Yo this isnt the Harlem Globetrotters. Pop’s job isn’t to put on a good show it’s to get the most out of his team. Resting his aging roster is perfectly fine especially considering every one on earth knows they’re making the playoffs and it’s only November. Maybe Stern should consider not allowing half the league into the post season, then a team would be less likely to give away games…but that would require owners to take a paycut which would never happen. Until then the benefit of winning 1 game in November is essentially 0 considering they’re a lock for a top 3 seed and everyone knows it.

  12. totallyuselessme - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    Get this guy outta here. Isn’t he retired yet?

    I’m no Spurs fan, but this is ridiculous. Who is he to tell an NBA team whether or not they can rest their players? Are injured players required to play too?

    This is baseless and stupid.

    • ron05342 - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:44 PM

      If he can kill a perfectly legal trade between two teams, he can do whatever he wants.

      And he is showing it.

      Too bad the Spurs lost in the last couple of minutes. Would have loved to see Pop punk Stern.

  13. lsoreal - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:39 PM

    Spoken like people that spent no money to go see this game. The championship days are long gone for the Spurs. So let’s stop that nonsense. The marginal return that the Spurs get by resting their players for one game is far outweighed by the PR consequences for the league. It may be hard for some of you to understand, but this is bigger than little San Antonio.

  14. frank35sox - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    This literally happens in baseball 4 times a week per team. Next time a scheduled starter is scratched or a first baseman sits out, Bud better put his foot down.

    David Stern, you are an idiot.

  15. jm9ulose - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    I feel like people jump on the “stick it to the man” bandwagon because it has and always will be trendy. Does Stern have a right to tell Pop how to manage his team? No. But at the same time will sitting his stars including a 25 year old Danny Green in the 17th game of the year help them win the title? No. Bottom line is the matchup was good for fans and the league at full strength and Pop ruined it. Spurs fans and trenders will say it was a five point game and they had a chance but they really didnt. The Heat sleep walked through the game but when it came down to the stretch and they gave maximum effort San Antonio’s backups were overwhelmed by the stars of the Heat. It was inevitable. Take nothing way from Pop as a coach, he’s a hall of famer, but this was a poor decision on his part. He basically conceded a loss where there was something to be gained in a win, whether the delusional or biased and too blind to see agree or not.

    • savvybynature - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:04 PM

      Yes, you are a greater basketball mind that Coach Pop. You understand what gives the Spurs a chance to win a title better than the guy who was led them to 4 of them.

      Keep telling yourself that.

      • jm9ulose - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:27 PM

        So you are saying that resting their starters in the 17th game of the season is a title clincher? How has that worked out the last 2 years? In fact 5 years, since that’s the last title they’ve won. I’m not going to turn this into an insult session over Pop or the Spurs. Both are fantastic and first rate, both the organization and coach. But you can call a spade a spade and say its a poor decision without insulting there abilities as a coach or overall decision maker. Most he makes are right, this one was not. In an earlier post u said his responsibility was to the Spurs exclusively and not the league, fans or television. Incorrect my friend, because without the funds supplied by the fans and networks there would not be a league, and therefore Pop would not have a job. Second, u said they probably would have lost that game regardless, so y not rest? That defeatist attitude would have the Heat with 1 less victory as well. They played a back to back against the Clippers and Nuggets in which teams were something like 2-40 in the past few years with Wade also out. They could have conceded and sat LeBron and Bosh but they didnt and won for the first time there since ’02. We won’t know which games were “meaningless” until the end of the season. Since u like to deal in hypotheticals, maybe that victory decides where the Spurs play in a game 7 in the finals this year. Maybe it’s on the road back in Miami. Maybe they lose. Maybe it did matter. Maybe u and Pop were wrong? Oops

      • savvybynature - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:37 PM

        You truly have a dizzying intellect.

        Hard to believe you haven’t been put in charge of your own NBA franchise yet.

        (Oh, and btw, resting his players has worked out great the last two years. Duncan and Manu are both producing at very high levels at age 36 and 35, respectively, and they went to game 6 in the conference finals last year. And yes, he is employed to do a job and that job is give his team the best chance to win a title, not to satisfy sponsors or fans. Not sure why that’s hard to understand).

      • jm9ulose - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:55 PM

        Ur sarcasm is the only thing that’s dizzying. I’m surprised u don’t have ur own room in Pop’s house. Or do u? Mrs. Popovich? Just checking. U r contradicting ur own argument by saying it has worked out great the last 2 years. U said earlier the only goal is winning a title. Yet there u say it was great that they lost in the conference finals last year. Not to mention beat as a 1 seed by Memphis in the first round two years ago. So which is it? Championship win or playoff failure u deem as “success”. Remember what u say earlier friend, for it will be used against u.

      • pensfan603 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM

        Its not that resting them one game is going to win them a championship but its something that helps them, it can give you a competitive advantage when you are 80 something games into the playoffs to have a team that hasnt had to make as many road trips and it can help. Im not mad at Popovich im mad at david stern. If you don’t like him resting his players you can shorten the season or give them more days in between breaks dont complain about what popovich does, he is just trying to keep his players healthy so they can play at a higher level and create a more interesting game during the playoffs, if you dont like this dont put the Spurs on TNT

  16. phillyfan75 - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    “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.”

    Popovich’s job isn’t to ensure “everyone wins,” his job is to give the Spurs the best chance to win the NBA title.

  17. rehmer2389 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    Sterns comments officially declare that all this league cares about is money anymore and that good basketball play is second.

    Obviously the game was still competitive even with scrubs in so why does there still need to be a fine?

    I think Stern needs checked into the old folks home soon

  18. glink123 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    This will be easy for Stern. Just fine the Spurs the amount that TNT paid the NBA to broadcast the game. TNT paid $465 million to broadcast 46 regular-season Tuesday Thursday games. That amounts to a $10 million dollar fine.

    • scalfor3 - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      a 10 million dollar fine when they didn’t break any written rules? that sounds fair…

  19. glink123 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:14 PM

    Where do you clowns think Spurs ownership gets the money to pay for their players salaries? You honestly think ticket sales cover that? Wake up. The television contracts total more than $2 billion per season. Divide that amount by the number on teams, and there’s where the bulk of the player salaries come from.

    • savvybynature - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:19 PM

      So let’s rig all the games then to maximize tv ratings. It’s not about basketball, it’s about maximizing tv revenue, is that what you’re arguing? This is the same mentality that led to the Lakers v. Kings playoff debacle in, I believe, 2003. Clearly Stern agrees with you, but most fans do not.

      You act as if the tv revenue is solely dependent on no one resting players ever. It’s not. It’s mostly dependent on the playoffs and especially the finals, which is another reason to rest players if you believe, as future HoFer Coach Popovich does, it helps ensures that stars are healthy for the games that matter at the end of the season.

  20. glink123 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    correction: $1 billion per year for the television contracts ($930 million to be exact)

  21. glink123 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    I actually don’t have any problem with Pop resting players. None at all. I’m just stating an obvious fact. TNT pays a ton for broadcasting rights, and then sells advertising slots to recover their fees. Budweiser buys a slot and expects 5 million viewers to watch the mega matchup between the Heat and Spurs, but only 800,000 watch the game due to Pop benching his top 3 players.
    …and your comment about rigging the games to make more revenue actually isn’t too far off.

    • savvybynature - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:50 PM

      I know it’s not too far off, that’s why I’m arguing so vehemently against it. I don’t want the league to go (back) to that.

      Some of us watch because we like basketball, not because we like to read names on the backs of jerseys. In case no one noticed, the game tonight had 25 or so lead changes and was actually a fun game to watch. My wife actually commented that she was more interested because of the trumped up controversy. She wanted to see the no names knock off the world champ and make Stern look like a fool. Sure, it didn’t happen, but I bet you the ratings didn’t suffer as much as everyone thinks.

  22. geezer41 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    Wow the owners should be happy, they no longer need to have a head coach. The A hole that runs the league just took over the duties

  23. jkb0162 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    You can rest players without sitting them for the whole game. If the game got out of hand he could have pulled his starters then. Pop does a lot of things because he thinks they make him look smarter, but paying some attention to the fans wouldn’t hurt once in awhile either.

  24. glink123 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:49 PM

    It’s called an “integrity of the game” clause. Stern is going to bring down a massive hammer on Peter Holt, hard enough that Holt makes sure Pop gets the message.

  25. frug - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:50 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.

    Really? Last time I checked the ticket said Spurs vs. Heat not Duncan, et. all vs. Heat.

    Just because you bought a ticket does not entitle you to make roster decisions.

    • frug - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:58 PM

      (Sorry for the double post, but there is no edit button and I have to address this also)

      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.

      How is this scenario any more fair to Magic fans than what actually happened is to Heat fans? I’m sure Magic fans were expecting to see the Spurs star players.

      The only difference is one involved a game you were interested in and one did not.

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