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LeBron doesn’t think Popovich was wrong for resting Spurs starters against Heat

Nov 30, 2012, 12:51 PM EDT

LeBron James listens to a question at a news conference during media day at the Miami Heat's home arena in Miami, Florida Reuters

There’s been plenty of discussion over Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to rest his three best players on Thursday, all of whom were healthy, for his team’s nationally televised contest in Miami versus the defending champion Heat.

No matter where you stand on the issue, it’s tough to argue that the league would be better off as a whole if more teams were to follow Pop’s lead on this, but it’s equally tough to argue that the commissioner’s office has any room to punish the Spurs for their actions, with no rules against what the organization did being in place prior to the decision.

One person who didn’t seem to have a problem with it was LebBron James, who addressed this issue specifically during his postgame comments.

From Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida:

“I don’t think Pop was in the wrong,’’ said Heat forward LeBron James, who scored a game-high 23 points. “It’s not in the rules to tell you that you can’t not send your guys here or send your guys home. But the commissioner will make his decision, and everybody else will deal with it.’’

Stern actually did fine the Los Angeles Lakers $25,000 when then coach Pat Riley didn’t play healthy starters Magic Johnson and James Worthy in the 1989-90 regular-season finale at Portland. But that was before it became commonplace in the NBA to rest players at the end of seasons, and not a peep had been heard before from Stern when Popovich had sat out guys.

This is the core issue, and Stern’s largest hurdle in handing down any form of punishment.

A fine more than twenty years ago is hardly a precedent that can be pointed to, especially when the Spurs specifically have done this repeatedly over the last few seasons without consequence.

James may not have an issue with what the Spurs did against his Heat, but plenty of others do — including David Stern, who has an interesting decision to make about how this will be dealt with in the future.

  1. miamatt - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Can’t see how Stern could punish the Spurs/Popovich for this. There is a cumulative effect from playing such a long season, and it is not unreasonable to believe the body is at greater risk when it hasn’t had time to recover between games.

    It is true that last night was bad for the business of basketball, but unless it becomes a league-wide trend, it will be forgotten in a couple of weeks.

    • dls612 - Nov 30, 2012 at 4:02 PM

      Thats why he’s punishing them, u don’t wait to see how big a fire gets before u put it out! Love pop, and he’s a great coach but he could have rested them against a team or teams that are a low market team or below average team not against the champs and on a big network. If u know NBA u should not be shocked of sterns reaction including popovich. people spent a lot of money on those tickets not to mention what else they had to do just to go see this game!

      • albertmn - Nov 30, 2012 at 5:02 PM

        The word you are looking for is “you”.

  2. chargerdillon - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    You watch, if any real sanctions come down on the Spurs. The next time a coach pulls his players, watch the other team roll over and lose.

    You think the players don’t know to protect themselves in this situation? Miami could’ve easily just laid down and let the Spurs bench win that game, and then what’s the point of sanctions.

    NBA players will protect themselvs, and they will stick by their coaches who protect them as well as the rest of the league in knowing it’s the coaches right to rest his players.

    The fact that there’s so many BAD NBA teams playing so many games is the real issue. Does anybody really want to see the Sacremento Kings 80 times a season? No…..nobody really wants to see the Kings 80 times a season, in fact Kings fans dont want to see the Kings 80 times a season, they want to see the Kings when they play the Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Spurs, Celtics and other big name teams.

    The NBA has an overly saturated product with more than 60% of the games not really being worth watching in the regular season. Fix that, and you don’t have to sanction a team.

    • totallyuselessme - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:57 PM

      60% is being generous.

      When the NBA season starts, every single year we know who’s gonna be in the playoffs, pretty much from the first round to the championship game, barring 1-2 upsets or a major injury.

      Pop plays his cards with a championship in mind every year, and he does it better than anybody because he always has that goal in mind. Other coaches should take note, but other coaches don’t have the credibility, nor the trust of their ownership enough to do it.

      • zerole00 - Nov 30, 2012 at 2:38 PM

        Agreed, the major issue is that the NBA has too many teams (and obviously not enough star players to go around). Let’s be honest, does any one of us really want to see a major player from the Lakers, Spurs, Thunder, Heat, Knicks, Celtics, etc. be injured in a game against the Wizards or Bobcats?

        The only reason this whole thing became an issue is that the Spurs were playing the Heat at the end of this trip instead of say, the Wizards or Bobcats.

  3. 1972wasalongtimeago - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    The punishment was that they lost a winnable game. This loss could be the one that costs them home court in a playoff series. Can’t get worse than that.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:56 PM

      How does that hurt David Stern? Why should he stick his fat head into the business of the San Antonio Spurs when they did what’s best for the long-term health of their team. If they lose home-court in a playoff series, it hurts them and they have to weigh the risk of that against resting players. Pop made the decision that the possible loss of home court for a playoff series isn’t as important as having a fresh group of stars for a game that matters far more against a conference rival Grizzlies.

    • cuejay - Nov 30, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      Winnable game? If you are speaking generally as in, “any game can be one,” then okay. But if you are referencing the fact that the score was close I beg to differ. The great players get up for the big games. You really think LeBron would have only scored 23 points of the Spurs stars played? Or would he do what Lebron does and score as many points, dish as many assists, get as many rebounds and steals, and block as many shots as necessary to win.

      • cuejay - Nov 30, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        …any game can be won…

      • eventhorizon04 - Nov 30, 2012 at 3:28 PM

        For the Spurs, one of the top teams in the NBA, any game was winnable. Same goes for the Heat, OKC, etc.

        If Pop was after “Most wins possible,” he should have played with his bench players against the earlier teams on that road trip and made his best players really only play 2-3 games total (one of them being the Heat).

        Instead, he gave his stars minutes against teams the stars really didn’t need to play against for the Spurs to win, and then he sent the stars home rather than play them in a game where the stars were actually needed and could have won the game.

        Pop has the right to do it, but it was a curious decision in terms of getting the Spurs as many wins as possible.

  4. thetylerrose - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    I envision many “sprained ankles” in the futures of the Spurs’ big 3…

    • totallyuselessme - Nov 30, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      Spurs injury report, Dec 14th 2012
      PG Tony Parker – DNP – Banana peel – Will return Dec 15th 2012
      PF Tim Duncan – DNP – Elephant rampage – Will return Dec 15th 2012
      SG Manu Ginobli – DNP – Helicopter crash – Will return Dec 15th 2012

  5. azarkhan - Nov 30, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Of course Popovich wasn’t wrong. It’s his job as coach to do what is best for the Spurs, not what’s best for Davis Stern and the television contracts.

  6. savvybynature - Nov 30, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    Weren’t the Warriors blatantly tanking games last year in hopes of keeping a protected pick that they traded away?
    The fans that went to those games are the ones Stern should be apologizing to. Pop may have given some guys the night off, but the Spurs did give a hard effort to try to win w the guys they had.
    Oh yeah, but the Warriors didn’t mess with TNT or the Heat, so Stern doesn’t care. Once again it’s not really about the fans, it’s about the $$$. Stern is a total phony.

  7. joeyashwi - Nov 30, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    I think Stern is just jealous that Bettman took over the most hated commissioner in sports and is trying to work his way back into the top spot.

  8. chuckster77 - Nov 30, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    Why does the league have to punish San Antonio? Isn’t the NBA still a business? If TNT or ESPN are upset that San Antonio isn’t playing their starters then don’t schedule nationally televised games for them. San Antonio has the right to play who they want just as the networks have the right broadcast who they want. The only thing David Stern should do is schedule the games better so that this isn’t an issue to begin with.

  9. jdillydawg - Nov 30, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    Seriously? Are we to be surprised that LeBron doesn’t have a problem when his opponents rest their best players? That’s like a night off for him. Practice at the Y. Playing Horse at the park. Dunking over my grandma.

    I bet he wouldn’t have a problem with other teams doing that every night they play, come to think of it. In fact, I think he’d quite like the easy road to another ring.

  10. tampajoey - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    Who fuking cares what Lebron thinks?

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