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Popovich says he understands fans concerns when he sits stars

Nov 30, 2012, 10:19 AM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antionio Spurs - Game Five Getty Images

Gregg Popovich has done this before. More than once. Three times last season he rested his stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all at once.

And while David Stern never got involved until last night, fans at those games were not happy (and there was some grumbling from some quarters of the media).

When Popovich did it in Portland last season, a fan wrote him and complained that he had paid good money to see these stars and he was unhappy. Popovich said he responded to the letter, reports Scott Howard-Cooper of

“I got a letter from a gentleman who was disappointed because he came to the game with his cousin, they paid money and they wanted to see so-and-so and so-and-so. I wrote him back and I said, ‘If I was in your position, I would write the same letter. I agree with you totally. You’re right. But my priorities are different than yours.’ In the general sense, frankly, everything doesn’t go our way in life. Everything go your way every day? Sometimes things happen. That’s the way it goes.”

Popovich has one priority — do what is best for the San Antonio Spurs team. His team was on a the final game of a six-game road trip Sunday, was playing the second game of a back-to-back and their fourth game in five days, going up against a Heat team that had the last four days off. That is what you call a schedule-maker’s loss. The Spurs were 5-0 on the road trip so far and Popovich thought his veteran stars looked a little tired so he gave them the night off.

He did what he felt was right for his Spurs — not for the Heat fans, not for TNT (which was to broadcast the game), not for the greater business of the league, but for the Spurs team. That is his lone goal. David Stern, the fans, the media have other priorities. Stern can inject those priorities into Popovich’s decision making, but it’s not a simple question.

And Popovich gets all that. He just had different priorities.

  1. kvvvv2391 - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    The only mistake Pop made was being so obvious about it, by sending them home instead of having them on the bench. This happens all the time in every sport. Much ado about nothing…

    • pglive21 - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      That wasn’t a mistake kvvvv2391. He reasoned that they would get considerably more rest by getting to bed in their own home at a reasonable time versus flying back late at night after finishing a game at 10:30 PM (or flying early the next morning). Seems like a pretty sound assumption to me.

    • davidly - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      I see your point, but a day off is a day off. There is a lot to be said of flying home early and cheering your team on from the relaxing comfort of the couch.

    • manchestermiracle - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:47 AM

      Having them dress up in a suit, ride to the arena on the bus, sit on the sidelines for the whole game, ride back to the hotel, maybe stay over another night in a strange bed. and THEN fly home wouldn’t have been nearly as effective in getting them the rest they needed than just having them go to the airport and sleep in their own beds.

      What do you suppose the “pundits” would have written had they seen those three players sitting on the bench in suits? “Are they all hurt?” “Did they piss the coach off?” “Did Popovich bet against his team and is insuring they lose?” Etc, etc., ad nauseum.

      One of the reasons Popovich’s players perform for him is that what you see is what you get. He doesn’t have time for politically-correct bullshit, which seems to rub a politically-correct bullshitter like Stern the wrong way. Too bad Popovich is such a successful coach, because the NBA could sure use someone like him to succeed that preening moron Stern.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Pop should have written “If I do what you want, I may end up sitting out there with you sometime very soon.”

  3. davidly - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    The way Popovich manages his team is indicative of why he is the best coach of his era at getting his players to play pure team ball. My first thought when I read the pre-game hype about this was, “And they’ll probably win.”

    At any rate, I don’t think I am the only one who watched the game because of that possibility. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered.

    Plus, I like how Pop indirectly calls the Comish a snivelling crybaby who has to have everything he wants.

    • apmn - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      I wouldn’t have watched this game if it hadn’t been for that possibility, as well.

      Also, this game is going to pay dividends for the Spurs in terms of bench play down the stretch and in the playoffs.

    • lovetbrady - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      Ha Davidly your comment just made my WHOLE day!!! Much love to my Spurs!!

  4. manchestermiracle - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    Stern’s league set up this situation with unfair scheduling. Now Stern wants to penalize the Spurs for wanting to protect their main players while not addressing his own league’s crappy scheduling.

    Tired players stand a better chance of being hurt. Stern is going to decide that having the league take that risk is good business, except having a few fans upset in November is unquestionably a better situation than the Spurs having a player out with injury for weeks/months/the rest of the season.

    Micro-managing your business is almost never good policy. Stern and his cronies stepped in to neutralize the New Orleans Hornets’ trade decisions, supposedly to keep them from hurting themselves. They are currently 4-10 and entering a tough stretch of the schedule. Now Stern wants to tell another team how to manage its players. Stern acts like the NBA is a fantasy league and he’s the GM/head coach of every franchise. For someone on their way out, he sure seems determined to set bad precedents for his successor.

  5. cramsinned - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    Pop is right

  6. mrgeek100 - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Why not sit them on an 0-11 wizards or the night before witch is a meaningless game. He chose to sit them in a highlight game that was on TNT. Not against resting players, but I think it was a bad choice to rest them in that big money marketing game. That’s what us basketball fans get up and pay for. Bad decision in my eyes, I had that game circled on my regular season calendar

    • zerole00 - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      So your logic is that it’s okay to sit against one team, but not another? Do you even realize how bias and unfair that is?

      Pop did the mental math, we can all pretty much do it:
      1) They won 5 straight
      2) They were coming off the end of a tough schedule
      3) They were facing one of the best teams in the East, who were rested

      What would be the point? If the Wizards had been the last team for them to play I’m willing to bet Pop would have rested them too, like he did against Portlands. They were throwaway games that the Spurs could afford.

      • zerole00 - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM

        If you want to complain, complain about the scheduling. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if they had faced the Heat early on.

  7. LPad - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    this problem really has nothing to do with Popovich and all to do with Stern and the marketing approach he uses. If he focused on marketing teams and not players it wouldn’t be a big deal when players rested to prevent injuries that would sink the team. He chose to market MJ over the Bulls, Shaq and Kobe over the Lakers LeBron and Wade over the Heat. Change your marketing approach and this isn’t a problem.

    For ex. the fans got to see a good game against two contending teams that went down to wire and were able to watch three future HOFs play, but instead because of the marketing approach the media, tv execs and a few fans (I have a hard time believing the majority of fans in attendance in Miami were there to only see Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu play live) are complaining they didn’t get to see four future HOFs play and two other potential HOFs play.

  8. LPad - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    One thing I’m glad Kurt brought up is the schedule. The NBA schedule is a grind that frankly does not get discussed a lot. Four games in five nights means no recovery time and no practice time, which equals a team not prepared to play at its best. Or in other words a team that is giving fans an inferior product. Essentially, even if all four starters played the fans still would still have watched an inferior product from the Spurs.

    In baseball, players are allowed to miss games solely for the purpose of rest. Bobby Cox was known for sitting most if not all of his 8 primary starters every Sunday. In football, each team gets a bye week. Stern either needs to space these games out better and more fairly or he needs to accept that players need to miss games solely just to recover. The fact that players have microfracture surgery in their early 20s demonstrates that. And given the way playoff games are spaced out does not reflect the regular season schedule indicates that either Stern is aware that players need rest to perform at their best or he is spacing the games out for money. Given that he is upset because it was on TNT it is probably the latter.

  9. reupjosh - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    What does it matter?!?!? Pop IS right.

    The game was in Miami… where “fans” don’t care about basketball, they only care about being seen in their fake tans, untucked collared shirts and jewel studded jeans.

    • reupjosh - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Unlike me all you want… but the proof is in the pudding: You have possibly the greatest player of this generation playing in AA Arena every night, to a half filled stadium. Pathetic.

      • eventhorizon04 - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:14 PM

        “The proof is in the pudding, ya hear! All them folks in Florida are fake fans, wearing untucked collared shirts and baggy, jewel-encrusted jeans, listening to that hippity-hop music instead of wholesome country music. YEE-HAW!”

      • scalfor3 - Dec 1, 2012 at 1:43 PM

        So making fun of Heat fans makes you a Spurs fan, and being a Spurs fan makes you a redneck. Good to know.

    • eventhorizon04 - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      Wow, a Texan complaining on the internet about “untucked collared shirts” and “jewel-studded jeans.”

      I’m just surprised he didn’t go on to complain that people in Miami wear “those baggy jeans” that are ruining society.

      Adorable. Just adorable.

  10. edwardsro - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    Well now his priority can be paying a huge fine

  11. edwardsro - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    Well his priority can be paying a huge fine

  12. rednation58 - Nov 30, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    I understand Pop may have an aging team, but if you can’t handle the rigors of an 82 game season it may be time to hang Em up rather than disappoint paying fans. If it weren’t for the fans you wouldn’t have a job in the first place so to dismiss them for being upset is simply unacceptable. Life isn’t fair doesn’t apply here because if I pay for a product I’m not satisfied with I get reimbursed. Had anyone here commenting who is not a spurs fan went to this game and noticed De Colo I stead of manu or Gary Neal instead of Parker or dejaun Blair instead of Duncan you’d be upset too. Every team at some point will have to deal with this young or old but none will be sat purposely unless they are unable to play. I can understand last season sitting players which I believe to be a major reason why we lost d rose but this is just sad to me for the nba and fans who support the game.

  13. teamobijuan - Nov 30, 2012 at 4:11 PM


    Fewer games in the regular season. Each game will mean more, and will have less wear and tear on the stars.

    • teamobijuan - Nov 30, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      Also, fewer, more meaningful games would increase viewership during the regular season and may even get some games on real networks.

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