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League fines Spurs $250,000 for not playing stars vs. Miami

Nov 30, 2012, 6:17 PM EDT

Gregg Popovich, David Stern Getty Images

David Stern has drawn his line in the sand… we think. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about where that line is and what is and is not allowed.

But the NBA has brought the hammer down. A big hammer.

The NBA has fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for sending Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home and not having them available to play against the Miami Heat in a nationally televised game on Thursday night. Stern pretty much had no choice but to fine the Spurs after he came out before the game with a statement saying there would be “substantial sanctions” on the Spurs for their actions.

Here is Stern’s statement with the fine:

“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.”

As for what rule the Spurs violated, here is what the league said in its release: “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.”

The large fine was aimed at the ownership group led by Peter Holt, clearly wanting them to be the heavies next time Gregg Popovich wants to rest his best players.

This move by Stern leaves a lot of questions going forward that the league should clarify with teams.

Can teams rest players later in the season as we get closer to the playoffs? Is this simply a matter of notification — if Popovich had said he was going to do this three days in advance could the Spurs have avoided the fine? Is the league now going to be into scrutinizing lineups, especially since you can be sure some teams will suddenly have players who have minor injuries that need a night off to rest?

This completely feels like David Stern sending the message to NBA coaches and teams not to mess with nationally televised games, the marquee games. Don’t go resting Kobe Bryant on Christmas, Mike D’Antoni.

106 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. jmota222 - Nov 30, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    David “ROGER GODDELL” stern

  2. electstat - Nov 30, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    I may not necessarily agree with everything regarding the punishment, but let’s be honest, Stern doesn’t “owe” the media ANY answers. They are entitled to whatever he wants to tell them, nothing more.

  3. watchfullhose - Nov 30, 2012 at 8:41 PM


  4. bobc74 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Let me begin by saying I’m not a basketball fan. But I am a fan of other pro sports like football and hockey. Regardless of which sport you are talking about, these top players are being paid millions of dollars a season. The LEAST they could do is play every game they are healthy enough to participate in, whether their coach wanted them to or not. The team should have also recognized that just because they were playing in Miami, that doesn’t negate the fact there could have been Spurs fans that bought tickets expecting to see the top players on their team competing. Just because I live closer to Philadelphia than Pittsburgh, that doesn’t mean when I go to Eagles vs. Steelers or Penguins vs. Flyers game that I’m a Philly fan. Far from it. And I’d definitely be posting very negative comments on my teams social media pages after a game in which the stars that I paid to see didn’t play.

  5. bozack23 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    I agree with Stern (I’m old school). These players are paid millions to play the game at the highest level. Its unfair for fans at games paying big money for seats, yet alone high priced ice-cold draft beer, pizza and etc to see the stars and/or scrubs stay home. And one of PJ’s concessions to return to the Lakers as head coach was to stay home on long road trips. Sorry Phil, gotta go to all 82-games and some, otherwise stay retired. Too many entitlements. Thats whats wrong with this society now – Folks don’t want to put in hard-work anymore. Bring me back MJ, Magic, Bird, Barkley and Malone – they played hard every night; wasn’t looking for “time-off” to play NBA2K12 :-) Ya’ll leave David Stern alone, in his almost 30-years, he’s helped the NBA grow from a business aspect too, like the superstars did on the court.

    • Kurt Helin - Dec 1, 2012 at 12:25 PM

      For the record, Pat Riley was fined $25K for resting a healthy Magic Johnson. So if you want to bring back that era know this was going on then, too, they just disguised it with made up injuries.

  6. bozack23 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    ..(Continued) Houston Rocket’s rookie Royce White complaining and scared about flying. Look dude, do you want to play in the NBA or not? Entitlements baby.. darn..

  7. redstar504 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    As much as I don’t care for San Antonio (being since they were trying to steal the New Orleans saints away from my city as we were pumping out water after Katrina) I can even overlook my distain and see the grievous injustice in this.

    This is setting a horrible precedent. This is essentially neutering all NBA head coaches. Who is David Stern? Is he now the GM/Head Coach of all 30 teams? I tought what he did to the Hornets with the nixed CP3 to LAL was out of hand this is on a whole different level of insanity. The comish does not have the right to set any teams roster. This guy needs to go now we can’t wait for him to step down for the good of the game. O.K. with my overreaction out of the way I will say this if this is the kind of game Stern wants to play the head coaches around the league should play right back. You want to sit LBJ or Kobe just call them injured with the stupidest injury you can make up say a strained finger or whatever.

    At the end of the day the Spurs should wipe their rear ends with the fine and flush it. No way should they pay that. This was a coaches decision that was all about keeping guys healthy for a whole season. END OF STORY!!!

  8. bleed4philly - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    And he’ll probably fine them again if they win the title.

    • pjmarn6 - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      The fans who eventually pay the salaries of these players and coaches in both the visited city and who pay the cable fees and television fees deserve to see the best players available. It is denying the rights of these fans not to see these people. I can see the coach taking “ONE” player out of the lineup and resting him but “FOUR”?

      COME ON! If you paid the big bucks to see the game and found out after you took your seat that you had paid to see subs, would you like this idea?

    • zblott - Dec 1, 2012 at 12:41 AM

      Stern has done crap like this against the Spurs for a while since they’re not great for ratings (remember who he said was his dream finals: Lakers vs Lakers). If this is the precedent, then here are other teams that he should also fine:

  9. bjerkrulez - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    The NbA players union should have a say in this…

    Try being a coach mr.comish and lets see how you handle your roster…say 48 mins per superstar? Lmao

  10. tipstopten - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    Commish is dead wrong, he is not god, a coach should be able to rest his players when he wants to. With the travel schedule
    that the NBA has the coach knows more about his players than some one in NYC that is over paid and has to big an ego.

  11. scalfor3 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    It’s $250,000 too much

  12. thenmoveback - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    That’s how much TNT lost in profits to the NFL network.

  13. sabatimus - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    Stern has no grip on reality left.

  14. stc1993 - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    So the commish now thinks he can tell the coaches what to do just so the fans can see them play. He’s opening a can of worms that he can’t keep in the can.

  15. redstar504 - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    @thenmoveback I would have paid that much not to watch that game on NFLN I’ll be seeing Drew Brees throwing picks in my sleep for the next 10 nights. Someone replaced Drew with Tony Romo the last 2 weeks.

    Football aside that is all this is all about ad revenue. The NBA and more importantly TNT was going to have a hard enough time going up against the NFL and Stern didn’t like the Spurs making the climb even steeper. My response to that is get over yourself. I am sure in Stern’s mind a top team in the west vs. a top team in the east was must see TV and must buy ads. The truth in the trenches is it’s one of 82 and Pop has his eyes on the prize come June and could care less about winning a ratings battle on a cold night in November. That’s where his eyes should be it’s why you play to make it to June. Pop did the right thing so Stern should just walk off into the sunset and let the coaches coach it’s about championships not TV ratings. The Spurs are an old team and to be fresh come playoffs guys need rest who the heck is Stern to tell Pop how to run his team?

    • savvybynature - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:56 PM

      What’s great is that Stern has made himself look like a jerk because Pop has such integrity and respect for the game that he was completely honest about it.

      This happens all the time but coaches just make up or exaggerate an injury. Pop just told the truth because everyone knows the reason he does it is because he IS trying to win. He isn’t throwing games, he’s putting his team in position to win more games.

      To be penalized for that goes against every competitive inclination that exists in every competitor.

      • scalfor3 - Dec 1, 2012 at 10:47 AM

        I think that was the best part of Pop’s FU to the league. He knew they’d react like this and make themselves look even worse in the process.

  16. bjerkrulez - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:01 PM

    That $250k should go to the homeless people out there or maybe to the spurs charity to balance out the stupid act by the comish

  17. fomega64 - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:04 PM

    Next step on the slippery slope … Stars must play every minute of the game. No substitutions! Injuries – forget about it – James must play for Miami in his wheelchair! If you are dumb enough to pay big bucks to watch morons run and jump, you get to pay to watch any moron run and jump. People should simply boycott NBA basketball it they don’t like it.

  18. eagles512 - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    If he had fined them for sending them home, he’d have a lot of support.

  19. chicagofan - Dec 1, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    The NBA is there for entertainment and the fans –especially season ticket holders who spend thousands every yr and a few hundred bucks every night and have to put up with the Twolves,Toronto, and a bunch of sorry teams. The fans deserve a chance to see competitive games like Spurs-Heat with the stars and Pop deserves this reminder. He should raise the fine next time. It is a business and handsomely pays people like Pop and Duncan for playing a f–ing game. I don’t care if you are tired–when I was an intern in medical residency I would work for over 30 +hrs straight and 100+ hrs/week and was able to perform at a high level. They should be able to play 5games in 9nights without whinning they are too old.

    • mogogo1 - Dec 1, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      “The fans deserve a chance to see competitive games like Spurs-Heat with the stars and Pop deserves this reminder.”

      Seems like you’re the one that deserves a reminder. Is a 5 point game decided in the final minute not competitive enough for you?

    • scalfor3 - Dec 1, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      When you were an intern at medical residency you were probably in your early 20s. Not in your mid-30s and physically going against guys like Lebron and Wade. The old guys need rest, their bodies do break down if they play too much in the regular season.

      • chicagofan - Dec 1, 2012 at 8:44 PM

        There are many interns and residents in their 30s and you have togo through
        4yrsof medical school before you can be an intern– few interns or residents are in their early 20s and I worked hard like that in my 30s also. They are playing bball not operating for 7-8hrs or treating critically ill patients in an emergency room or ICU for hrs on end. The point is it ain’t that hard to play multiple nights and if Pop wants to rest them,then sit them down at the end of quarters or the end of the Orlando game the night before or whatever but dress and play them against the defending world champs. As for the 5point game, I was not interested in watching Miami play down to the competition either and suspect many fans felt the same. The no name Spurs or Heat players are not worth spending a few hundred dollars to watch and just because Miami underachieved does not change that.

      • scalfor3 - Dec 2, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        My bad on the assumption about med interns. Either way, my point stands. Comparing the grind on pro basketball players to that on medical professionals is beyond comparing apples and oranges; the two have nothing in common. The physical toll professional basketball takes on players is insane. Pop wasn’t sitting his guys to give them a break from the mental toll (which is the only thing remotely comparable to a med intern), it was to give their bodies a physical break. Dismissing it as “just playing basketball” (as if an NBA game is equivalent to playing pickup ball at the Y) is incredibly shortsighted. And btw, I’m not dismissing the difficulties or importance of your work, just pointing out the job of an NBA player is more physically demanding than any non-professional athlete can fathom.

        Check out Grantland’s Jalen Rose podcast. On one of them Jalen talks about the amount of effort it takes for older guys to keep up in the league. It takes hours of cold and hot tubs, stretching etc for them to just be ready for practice. You can dislike it all you want, but Pop didn’t make up the idea that veterans physically need a rest sometimes in the NBA.

  20. txnative61 - Dec 1, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    The biggest problem for older, perennial contenders is the interminable length of the season—-when you play deep into the playoffs almost every year. Anyone could see the Spurs were gassed against the Thunder last year. Pop’s solution is obvious, and may help them. Stern now has to find a rationale to defend his arbitrary ruling, so now has to review the lineups of every game in case coaches are coaching contrary to the best interest of the league. The regular season has been made practically meaningless by the inclusion of the top half of the league in the playoffs, and round after round of lightly contested early games. The players association should step in on this one and save Stern from himself. Only so much blood to be squeezed from a turnip.

  21. denverdude7 - Dec 1, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Since when did David Stern become coach of the Spurs or any team for that matter? Television contracts are not the concern of a coach of any team. A coach is paid to coach and do what he feels is best for his team and his players period.

    The NFL and MLB understand and support this without question or interference. A few seasons ago the Indianapolis Colts virtually benched every skill position player while pursuing an undefeated season. Was there a fine, a warning or any type of sanction? Of course not. The Indianapolis coaches and management came to the decision that winning a championship was more important than an undefeated season.

    As for providing prior notification to the league office or the opposing team regarding who would be playing or who wouldn’t, what coach would do that? The element of surprise can be a part of an overall strategy designed to keep the other team off balance and perhaps “steal” a victory.

    Again, I point to the NFL for an example. Does anyone recall the Miami Dolphins upset of the heavily favored New England Patriots using a college offensive scheme called the wildcat? Did Roger Goodell demand that the Dolphins warn the Patriots they would be using different players or change their offensive philosophy?

    Of course not, that would be absurd. Every bit as absurd as a $250,000 fine from David Stern for a coach putting the welfare of his players ahead of a television audience.

    Mr. Stern, your time at the helm of the NBA has expired. Your resignation should be submitted as soon as possible.

  22. omniusprime - Dec 1, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    David Stern is a pathetic crybaby fining the Spurs for Popovich just doing his job the way he sees fit. I hate Popovich and the Spurs but I defend his actions of resting players. He is the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, not that dirtbag Stern. If Stern wants to play coach then he should resign and get hired on as a coach, which would never happen because he’s not smart enough to be a coach. All Stern cares about is the stinking money, not the league or the teams or the players.

    I’m sure the Heatstroke fans were totally brokenhearted by Pop’s resting three key players so that the fans could witness a home victory. I bet the Spurs fans are intelligent enough to trust Pop to do what’s best for the team to win another championship, that is the name of the game by the way stupid Mr. Commissioner. Chances are the rest of the fans didn’t mind either way, they would watch regardless of who did or didn’t play.

    Fire Stern!!!

  23. mogogo1 - Dec 1, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    The Stern legacy is set. The man leaves a tyrant and a joke. He can’t (or won’t) protect the fans from owners like the Shinns and Maloofs of the world, but he can dictate player minutes. He doesn’t want the biggest starts to play in the Olympics any more–and isn’t just against the idea but wants it legislated so nobody over 23 can play for gold ever again. What a loser.

  24. ksctychiefs - Dec 1, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    spurs shouldn’t have to pay anything……1). spurs show up on the commish’s door and ask to see a written nba policy on this,and/or a tv contract between the league and team on this( and they better already be in the file cabinet)…….2).when commish can’t produce #1 spurs are home free(and so are the rest of the league’s coaches!!!…..just think what the ramifications are here)………….3). spurs also show up at league’s office and show the commish that his name(the commish’s) does not appear anywhere on the coaching contract in the spurs office….4). as in marathon training you can train as hard as you want but a strict rule is thou must ‘rest'(you have to have rest/recovery days),this is called the science of exercise physiology…….as for the commish,’ c’mon man!!’…..

  25. santolonius - Dec 1, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    pop wouldn’t have to do this if the nba knew how to make a schedule. this is the league’s fault for how they draw up the schedule, not pop’s. i guess stern is absolutely oblivious to the average age of the nba’s marquee players.

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