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David Stern defends $250,000 fine to Spurs for resting stars

Dec 5, 2012, 5:18 PM EDT

David Stern AP

David Stern stepped on to a slippery slope in fining the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for sitting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for a nationally-televised game against the Miami Heat last Thursday. This was not something has drawn even a peep from the league in past years, when late in the season it was becoming a more common practice. Teams now don’t really know where the line is — is it okay to rest stars in Charlotte but not on national television in Miami? How many players can I rest a night?

Stern has never feared a slippery slope.

And he defended his fine in a conversation with the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Tuesday, saying that the owners had discussed this two years ago. He also said this was the Spurs only trip to Miami.

“The organization agreed they would take away four players, including a 26-year-old and a 30-year-old – their four best players,’’ said Stern…. “And they did it without notifying the league or the media the way they’re supposed to for injury and illness. That, and the totality of all the circumstances, if this wasn’t the appropriate time for exercising the discretion then there would never be an appropriate time. This is not about the coach, I’m fine with Pop…

“This is not about a coaching decision,” Stern said. “This is more about the relationship among our 30 teams and 30 owners.”

I wish Stern just would have been honest here — this was about protecting the interest of the companies that pay billions to broadcast NBA basketball. This was about TNT, and potentially down the line ESPN/ABC. This was about them getting value for their money, not the guy who bought tickets to see Tim Duncan. Because let’s be honest here — nobody buys a ticket to the Heat game in Miami to see Duncan. They came to see LeBron James, and they got to see him have to work for the win.

  1. badintent - Dec 5, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Kurt , you defending Stern is like fish rotting in the sun in Miami.Stern sending you some free tickets for that ? Or a Laker Cap ?

    • tubal22 - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:48 PM

      I think it’s safe to say that if Stern didn’t protect the relationships between the teams/owners/networks, Kurt (along with thousands of others) wouldn’t be doing that they’re doing today.

      There wouldn’t be hundreds of NBA blogs, millionaire NBA players, or Charles commentating on TNT..

      In 1985 (when Stern came in):

      The average salary was $370k.
      Salary cap was $4.23 million.
      Magic Johnson was the highest paid at $2.5 million per year
      13 players made more than $1 million.

      In 2012:

      The average salary is around $5.2 million
      Salary cap is $58 million
      Kobe Bryant is highest paid at $27.85 million
      387 players make more than $1 million.

      Average NBA salary went up around 14x.
      To compare, NFL average salary went from $162k to $1.1 million. Around a 7x increase.
      MLB average went from $476k to $3.44 million, around a 7x increase.

      So the NBA grew twice as fast as the other major leagues.

      Who pays for that? Stern has to protect the brand. If teams just all of a sudden decide there’s too many games on the schedule and don’t show up, then you screw the other teams, you screw your media relationships, and you screw your fans. Then you start losing your paying customers. I don’t think anyone wants that.

      • chargerdillon - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:56 PM

        I would agree with you that he’s protecting “the brand”. But that’s not what he’s really doing. Pop is sitting his main players so that they are capable to produce the best possible play when it counts, IN THE PLAYOFFS.

        In this sense and in thinking of the sake and health of THE PLAYERS, which in reality is the product that is the NBA, Stern is saying what strikes me as a slave mentality that these players will play regardless of what they physical condition is.

        If that’s the case, players shouldn’t be allowed to be held out of games at all. It’s a very fine line, either the players have to play all the time, or it’s at the discretion of the franchise, or in this case the coach of that franchise to make the decision based on the health of his players.

        In this case Stern has completely compromised the integrity of his brand by creating rules that say if you don’t play certain players in marquee television games, you can be fined. Show me where this rule exists other than in Sterns mind.

        These players are humans just like the rest of us, and if their boss tells them they have the night off, that’s his call to make and nobody elses.

      • badintent - Dec 5, 2012 at 11:24 PM

        very valid point for the $$ side of the NBA. And Stern grew the game worldwide faster than the NFL or MLB( sorry Bud) However, please don’t use this same argument to defend Gary Bettmen( who also grew revenues over 300% during his reign) or you will get hip checked into your water cooler by some Moosehead hockey freaks.( I respect Gary for growing the game in the US and not moving the Zona team to a rust belt steel town with a busted RIM owner.)

  2. seanpaulblanchard - Dec 5, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Did the Spurs issue a statement in regards to this power trip fine by Stern?

    • Kurt Helin - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:56 PM

      No. That would only invite another fine.

      • jedifriedchicken - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:28 PM

        What a fantastic response, Kurt.

  3. deiong - Dec 5, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    weak attempt to advertise his paper champions. seeing as how they almost lost against a team without its top 4 players..

    • hookem6903 - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:22 PM

      Top 6 players, really. Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson were both hurt.

  4. fanofevilempire - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    you know, I was with the majority and thought Stern was being a big ass but when you really
    think about this as if you were one of the owners, he really was protecting the interest of every
    team because what if Kobe fly to Toronto or LeBron didn’t fly to Washington last night.
    why didn’t the Spurs notify anyone about this, they were obligated and they knew that was required.

    I think Pop was trying to stick it the Stern because they had them play Miami on TNT on the last
    night of a 5 game road trip……………..

    • kanemoney - Dec 6, 2012 at 2:09 AM

      B S

      He is backtracking and try to spin his way out of it.

      Politicians do this all the time. “I am not against a certain policy, I just think states should decide.” BS BS BS!

      Same here. “It’s about the relationship with the owners and teams… wha???”

      There is no spinning this. Little Napoleon went on a power trip. What a sad little man.

  5. philswfc08 - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    Spurs should refuse to pay…

  6. rayburns - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Stern has never lacked in arrogance. As long as he feels he did the right decision, and can defend that decision to his (and not anyone else’s) satisfaction, he could care less how transparent his evasions and rationalizations are.

    It is definitely time for him to retire.

  7. davidly - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Corporate spokespeople tend to be duplicitous, in that they usually speak on behalf of the deceitful. The deceitful speaking on behalf of themselves are doubly duplicitous–transparent triangulation in a world devoid of transparency.

  8. chargerdillon - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Of course he’s going to defend himself, who else in their right mind would defend his criminal behavior.

    This is the same guy running the league that just a few years ago had exposed a referee gambling on games who outed virtually the rest of the NBA referees for controlling games.

    The same guy who had no credability, yet got hired by the NBA.

    Any time there’s that much money at stake, there’s a person like Stern controlling things in the background.

  9. bjerkrulez - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    Cmon mr. comish…you want coaches and players to be honest and yet you lie about your reasons?

    Relationship between the teams and owners? That’s pure BS
    It’s more of the relationship between the NBA and ESPN/ABC/TNT/commercials/endorsements

    Good thing you’re leaving the league before you make things worse as they are

  10. echech88 - Dec 5, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    God, Stern stepping down cannot come soon enough. So sick of the ego and arrogance.

    If I’m a Spurs fan (I’m not) I’m thrilled my coach is smart enough to recognize the postseason hinges on what teams are healthiest and clicking on all cylinders when the time comes.

    Beating Charlotte and beating Miami are worth exactly the same when it comes to seeding. Rout the Charlottes, Portlands and Torontos of the world and spare your stars the extra energy and fatigue that could come against trying to beat Miami (a lot less certain of a win even with the stars)

  11. sdpaulson - Dec 5, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    I think it would be absolutely hysterical if the Spurs’ next nationally televised game (6th game in 9 days)…. that Pop dresses the players and pulls them immediately after opening tip – max 24 seconds into the game. Having his aging stars sit/rest for the remainder of the game – ON NATIONAL TV. Shove that Stern!

    I left the NBA close to 25 years ago as a patron/fan and won’t be back as long as Stern has anything to do with it…… for obvious reasons.

    • jrose606 - Dec 5, 2012 at 7:51 PM

      If you left 25 years ago how did you make your way to this article? and as a non-fan you took the time to look up when the next spurs nationally televised game is?

      • sdpaulson - Dec 6, 2012 at 12:08 AM

        Stop for a moment and think about just how many different ways you and everyone else has heard this story for the last few days (all manner of radio, tv, internet, newspaper, etc)……. I’ll clue you in that as a non-fan it wasn’t hard at all to get here. Surely you didn’t just ask how I happen to get here, did you? Really?

        As far as when the Spurs next game is (or any other NBA team) I haven’t a clue and don’t care…. AND didn’t mention it above. So when is it and I’ll know……

        I do know what professional athlete’s put their bodies through. We’ve all seen the toll of over scheduling in the name of the all mighty dollars does. NBA, NFL (sunday and then thursday night or monday night followed by sunday road game….), MLB, adds to the increased risk of injury due to lack of recovery….. Really whomever at any league office scheduling teams (aged or not) without thought of what they are doing to RISK damaging multimillion dollar players – possibly tarnish the image/brand ought to be paying the $250k themselves. 6 travel games at 110% in 9 nights, again REALLY???

  12. suckit619 - Dec 5, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    F*ck David Stern. He has ruined the NBA

  13. mazblast - Dec 5, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    When Stern tries to make a “Victory Lap” tour of the league next season, he’d be best advised to skip San Antonio. I get the sense that the fans there would not give him the tribute that Little Caesar thinks he deserves.

    The Spurs are a TEAM, run as a TEAM, winning as a TEAM, something that is clearly anathema to The Troll’s philosophy of emphasizing designated individuals.

    • linhsiu - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:07 PM

      Oh please… That night 4 TEAMmates were not in uniform… they were not in the arena… hell, they were not even in the state of Florida…

      They were sent home to…rest… during the first month of the season… the FIRST month… 15 games in… and people are trying to equate this to resting players at the end of the season… trying to elevate it to a “brilliant strategic” move by Pop… really???

      Let us all take some advice from Kurt… Let’s be honest… all this vitriol aimed at Stern is just hate for Stern…

  14. nofunleague - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Why are the commissioners in all four of the major sports Dickheads?

  15. fomega64 - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Stupid fine. So what will teams do. The players will go out for warm-ups, pull up lame, and be sent home to recuperate.

  16. rubbernilly - Dec 6, 2012 at 12:03 AM

    Let’s start with this understanding: If it *seems* counter-intuitive that a team having a successful season is at odds with the NBA league having a successful season, then it probably *is* counter-intuitive.

    Think about the maximum success/growth/profit the NBA could achieve in a single year… whatever else that might look like, it would absolutely have every *team* achieving their maximum success for that year.

    In this case, San Antonio will have a more successful season by resting their old guns. Go ahead and tell me that the NBA is worse off having a San Antonio team relevant and in the hunt come playoff time.

    In other news, David Stern still wonders why Bud Selig doesn’t pass out stiff sanctions every time a MLB team hits a sac-fly.

  17. savvybynature - Dec 6, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    Sports science has shown via multiple peer-reviewed studies that attempting to play at a high level while fatigued does indeed increase the risk of significant injuries.
    Already, resting players due to compressed scheduling and/or the lack of importance of a particular game is commonplace in other major sports like baseball, football and soccer. Those leagues have all accepted that it makes sense for teams to protect their investments, the players, over the course of a season. I have yet to hear of a single sponsor demand a refund due to players being rested, and honestly this probably isn’t that big of a deal if Stern doesn’t overreact by issuing his petulant apology and then following up with a fine.
    Pop and the Spurs were basically fined for being ahead of their time, as this will probably be somewhat common in the NBA too within a decade, assuming Stern’s successor is more reasonable and less of a shill for the sponsors.
    I know many believe Stern did great things for the league decades ago, but he is absolutely wrong on this issue and the times have passed him by. Time to step away before further tarnishing his legacy.

  18. bigtrav425 - Dec 6, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    No matter how Hitler errrrr Stern cuts it,there is NO defense to this fine.Pops did what he thought was best for his team now and in the long run this season for them to try and win a Championship,which i thought was the goal of every team and pretty much common knowledge by everyone including the commissioner of the NBA.But that’s obviously not the case with Stern,who needs to die and die ASAP.Andddd who cares about Miami sports fans they are the worst in the country everyone knows that!!….well everyone except the head Nazi aka Stern…again no defense to his fine and his hated meter,which was way past 10 to begin with just went up another 25 points…Stern also did not globalize the NBA or make it what it is today the PLAYERS have made it what it is!! Did Stern invent or make Magic,Bird,Jordan,Barkely,etc etc….NO! Stern happened to be in the right place at the right time.Im not even a Spurs fan and this pisses me off to no end!

  19. savvybynature - Dec 6, 2012 at 1:52 AM

    Also, worth mentioning that Stern said in the interview (paraphrasing) that if the Spurs had notified the league earlier of their intentions, the league would not have allowed them to rest players.
    That completely undercuts his claim that part of the reason for the fine is that they didn’t notify everyone in a timely manner. They weren’t required to anyway since there were no injuries or illnesses to report, but I still heard about it about 5 hours before tip off, so it was hardly a big secret as Stern claims.
    The only secret here is wtf is the NBA’s policy on this going forward? Make a rule commish, no one trusts your judgment!

    • savvybynature - Dec 6, 2012 at 2:02 AM

      Here’s the quote: “I would suggest to you if we had been notified it wouldn’t have happened. So maybe from their perspective they did the right thing, but not from mine.”

      So, clearly, he was just throwing every reason he could think of out there because he didn’t want to reveal his real reason: He was protecting TNT, the corporate sponsors, and possibly Vegas.

  20. gmsingh - Dec 6, 2012 at 6:35 AM

    Fish-faced idiot.

  21. manchestermiracle - Dec 6, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    For a guy who made a completely arbitrary decision to allow Chris Paul to go to one L.A. team, but not the other, Stern has just about drained his credibility account. And his excuse (“reason”) for that decision (“better return from the Clippers”) is just as lame as his tortured reasoning on fining the Spurs. NO stinks and Pop was right.

    It seems that the closer he gets to leaving, the more disingenuous and underhanded his decisions. His legacy won’t be about how much he grew the league, it’ll be about how much his balls shrank. It takes guts to tell the truth, admit you were wrong, and find consensus on important issues. This pasty-faced troll does none of those things.

  22. markv00 - Dec 6, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Let’s not forget Stern is an attorney, so enough said there. And should the Spurs be lucky enough to win the Finals (not saying they will, just as an example), guess who will be standing there at center court singing the praises of a great franchise, coach and players.

    What if Pop listed the players with various injuries; back spasms, flu, strained calf, etc and sent them back to SA for evaluations, is that OK? OF course. The Spurs have two players out now with injuries, what if over the course of games leading up to the Miami game “strains, sprains and spasms” lead to these players being unavailable, then what? What’s the number limit? Would the league rather teams make up fake injuries?

    I remember a few years ago Pop was so disgusted with the way the starting five played just minutes into a game, he benched all of them and put in the reserves. I know that was before the more recent talks, but still a coaching decision.

    It seems to me that the Spurs or any team that doesn’t play their stars (injuries not withstanding), is already taking their lumps. Look at the bottom of the box scores, what do you see? DNP-Coaches Decision. Where on the bench do you draw the line? Is this middle school ball where everyone has to play at least one quarter?

    Another lawyer joke waiting to happen….Disgusting!

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