Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 9:00 am  |  63 responses

NBA Will Punish the Spurs Because They Messed With a National TV Game

by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

In the eyes of the NBA, the worst thing any player, coach, front-office executive or referee could ever do is mess with the League’s money.

It’s why the San Antonio Spurs are about to be hit with what Commissioner David Stern menacingly called “substantial sanctions.” Head coach Gregg Popovich sent his star players home prior to a big nationally-televised game in Miami, which made corporate partners unhappy, and clearly infuriated Stern.

This is all about money and image for the NBA — they had never sanctioned Popovich and the Spurs for this type of thing before (though other organizations have been slapped on the wrist for resting players.) Deputiy Commissioner Adam Silver even said the following last April after the lockout, when asked about teams purposely sitting out healthy players: “This is a unique season and fans understand that competitive strategy is part of what goes into coaching this year … The strategic resting of particular players on particular nights is within the discretion of the teams … And Gregg Popovich in particular is probably the last coach that I would second-guess.”

More from the Express-News:

Stern can’t tell Popovich who to play and when to play them, anymore than he can dictate minutes. That’s why the league has allowed Popovich to do this in the past. But Thursday was different for Stern. This was TNT, with the defending champs, with a game that had been advertised as a potential Finals matchup. This is the kind of marketing night that Stern built his empire on, and there was Popovich, often resistant to the Stern way of doing things, undercutting the selling of LeBron.

Popovich and the Spurs said after the game they hadn’t heard about Stern’s “unacceptable decision” statement. Once told, they wished even more that one more 3-pointer had kicked in. “Man,” Matt Bonner said, “it would’ve been great if we won.” Even in losing, Popovich looked like a coach with a plan. His subs played the system and with confidence; each might be better for it. Now, all of them finally get off this 10-day road trip for a divisional showdown with Memphis with four starters rested.

Prior to last night’s tilt against the Heat, and before he was told of the League’s angry stance, Gregg Popovich explained that he understood why some might be unhappy with his decision, but that it was ultimately made with the best interests of his team in mind.

No one knows yet what the punishment will be, but it’s likely to be harsh enough that Pop will have to come up with more creative ways to find rest for his aging stars.

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  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    Great article. I agree completely. They messed with Stern’s money. That’s the only reason why he’s upset. Good for Coach Pop doing what he thinks is best.

  • KBthaKilla

    So in other words, Stern’s money is more important than the health of the aging superstars he’s so adamant about putting on the national stage. What a prick. Go ahead and retire early, you fat bozo.

  • roscoe

    I would not want to be in stern’s shoes on this one. He can’t win.

  • Sparker

    all kidding aside, i worked hard all day, put the kids to bed (as my wife was out) and then hurried upstairs to watch a game I was really looking forward to seeing. and was met with this sh*t. what does that have to do with money? maybe stern just see what’s perfectly obvious – it’s not cool to disappoint fans.

  • dwade flops so hard

    but was that actually disappointing? last night it was the spurs bench against the reigning champs and they came really close to winning. i thought it was great to watch

  • The Spaniard

    What morons, The real story is that the Heat couldn’t destroy the Spurs second line players.

    How is this even a concern if the league office has no vested interest in influencing the outcome of games? What would have been said if the starters came to the game, played 1 minute and left because of “coaches decision”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509819249 Gaurav P.

    I mean, Stern does have a point. Doing this robs fans of their ability to watch teams they paid for. For example, imagine if a team like the Heat did this when the Lakers came into town – they purposefully sat Lebron, Wade, and Bosh down to rest due to a long road trip, in the FIRST MONTH OF THE SEASON.

    Its not fair to fans who paid the money to come see those specific players, even when in the arena of the home team. I’m sure some fans in Miami were hoping to see Timmy D, or Manu play and didn’t get that opportunity.

    I mean a really easy solution to this is to play your starters 3 minutes and then yank them out or give them a DNP.

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    I see why Pops did it, and I can see why so many people are cool with his decision. My issue is that the Lakers, Knicks, Spurs, and Celtics are old teams. What if D’Antoni, Doc, Pops, and Woodson all decide to do the same on a national stage (say Christmas Day)? Would we as basketball fans be okay with it?

    Again, Pops did what was right for him and his team, but basketball is entertainment. Fans invest a lot of money, time, and energy into the teams and players they love. I see arguments from both sides, but I don’t understand why people who expressed their disappointment are getting flamed on this site.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    the thing is……THEY EARNED THEM MORE MONEY —- This incident increased attention on the game. The ratings did not go down. The game was competitive. And Stern will STILL get paid. Stern is the emperor, and he hasn’t had the opportunity to flex his power in a while, so here’s his chance
    and let’s just remember, the Spurs wouldn’t have had a Tim Duncan to sit, if they didn’t give away AN ENTIRE SEASON in 1997.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509819249 Gaurav P.

    Exactly this. I think people think its OK because its the Spurs. This isn’t one player resting, its THREE. If the Lakers rested Pau, Kobe, and Nash/Dwight against an elite team on a TNT game, fans would be losing their sh*t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509819249 Gaurav P.

    I think Stern is battling this from a fan’s perspective as much as for ratings. I mean, quite honestly, if I was a Spurs fan in Miami and was dying to see Manu/Timmy/Parker for the first time, I’d be disappointed as f*ck. Its one thing to do it in April, but its the first month of the season. Like I said, a viable solution would have been to play them extremely limited minutes.

  • Wyattpurp

    Yeah I was disappointed too…yeah the game was close but it didn’t seem like the Heat were putting forth much effort most of the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509819249 Gaurav P.

    The disappointment was robbing fans the opportunity to see the Spurs 3 best players. The game was fine – the match-up would be more intriguing had the big 3 been there.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    sorry dude, first of all, no. Stern is not looking at this from a fans perspective, he’s looking at this from TNT’s perspective. If the game wasn’t on TNT, he wouldn’t have cared even a little. And anyway a few fans in Miami are not reason enough to forgoet the big picture.


    Stern doesn’t fine entire teams for tanking whole seasons. — he can’t fine the Spurs for sitting their stars in one game, especially when it is the 6th road game that team has played in 9 days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Gilbert/100001749589586 Mike Gilbert

    yea IM gonna have to agree 100% with this haha

  • whooo!

    You know what i find funny is, the nba and media NEVER talk abojt the spurs. They dont hype them, they barely recognize the fact that their big 3 are one of the most accomplished trios ever, or their place in history. Its always, “Spurs are old, Sphrs are boring.” Right? But NOW everyone is talking about how Miami fans paid good money to see their trio once a year.

    And would it really have been better for fans to see a game where teams are clearly not on equal footing given Miami’s rest? Why? So Pop could limit his stars minutes anhways to prep for a more important Grizzlkes game? Or so there could be a “decisive Miami win” flr the media to hype up?

  • airs

    gotta love pop, hey everyone

  • whooo!

    I think part of it is because some people identify the root cause of the system. Its not just that the Spurs rested their guys cuz theyre old. if anything, the Apurs should be offended by how harsh and long their road trip has been in Nov – i think 20 days on the road over 2 different trips, then playing 4th game in 5 nights against the defendingchamps who havent played at all during that time. Oh, and you’re set up for it on national tv. i think thats when you gotta question why blame the coach when he stands up or his team — blame the league execs and schedulers.

  • Sparker

    My feeling was that Pop intentionally benched the 3 just to get into the head of the Heat. And that it worked. The bench played okay, but the Heat were not there mentally at all, at least when I was watching. And sure, it was a smart move. If the Spurs won, it would have been a humiliation for Lebron and co. If they lost, everyone would say “Oh well, it doesn’t matter – it was only against the scrubs.” The point is… the game was over before it started, and Pop won. But the fans lost.

  • Comment_System

    The Angel of Stern strikes again.

  • RayJr

    Everyone please read above link to get more insight on how the schedule is made. According to the article, it may seem that the AT&T Center was booked and that is why the Spurs had to be scheduled like this.
    Also, I get what Pop was trying to do because he does this every year but come on its the first quarter of the season and way too early for this. Pop might as well have just forfeited the game and just returned to SA for practice yesterday because that’s exactly what last night’s game was for them. As I read earlier, yeah if other teams like the Lakers, Clippers or Knicks did this EVERY one of you all would be going off on this but because it is the Spurs and they aren’t a high flying and exciting team most are giving them a pass. Stern shouldn’t punish Pop but implement a rule against his actions. I think players should travel with team if not injured and if the coach wants them to get some rest at least play them the first half.

  • Caboose

    For the fan$.

  • bringbackthesonics

    i would rather see a properly rested big 3 vs the next best team in their division

  • The Big Cheese

    Remember where you heard it first, just days ago: The NBA: Where Star-Shining Happens! http://theclippercurse.blogspot.ca/2012/11/the-nba-where-star-players-shining.html

  • Lakernation

    I agree with stern on this one…fans come to see the stars play not rest!

  • The Big Cheese

    Remember where you heard it first, only days ago. The NBA: Where Star-Shining Happens http://theclippercurse.blogspot.ca/2012/11/the-nba-where-star-players-shining.html

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk


  • philchips

    This is bs. Stern is senile. It was a very good game. If I was pop or the spurs I’d sue the crap out of stern.

  • Dagger

    It’s baffling and kind of hilarious that people are shocked about Stern caring about money beyond all else. Believe it or not, the NBA is in the business of making money for itself and its partners. Stern and the NBA don’t give a crap about basketball and team success in itself; they care about how basketball can make money. Sitting your key players in a nationally televised game potentially undermines the league’s image and money, so it’s no surprise that the Spurs will be fined.

  • Mike Mihalow

    More like the Spurs 3rd line players.

  • Mike Mihalow

    Had the Spurs Big 3 played, they would have squashed the Heat. Stern should be glad he got a more competitive game, and didn’t allow his precious Heat to be embarrassed on national TV.

    Stern can’t make up rules to punish teams for not playing people. Its not like SA is tanking for a draft pick, and even if they did, Stern would probably rig the draft like he did last time anyway.

    The Memphis game is a big game for the Spurs. It could easily determine home court advantage in the playoffs. Ironically, the next time the Spurs play Miami, its a back-to-back before playing against the Grizzlies again.

    If Stern wants to punish the Spurs for this, he can keep having the refs blow calls against them in the playoffs, like he’s been doing for the past 5 years.

  • Mike Mihalow


    AT&T schedule had nothing to do with it, at least not until Jan/Feb

  • i_ball

    Maybe you forget that the Spurs old and bang up. Pop did do this back when TD and Manu were 28. And if the league tries to pass a rule about this – directly interfiring in teams internal affairs this would be the end of the sport.

  • i_ball

    The Spurs paid more than half a million dollars to the 4 guys who didn’t play.

    Anyway. If the NBA punishes the SAS I really want to see how we this punishment hold on in any court. No chance!

  • KC

    This has nothing to do with sterns money!!! The TV contracts are already set and stern has already announced his retirement. It has to do with the fans!!!! so you should all be in agreement with this move. I understand the players needing rest but, he could have rested them earlier in the road trip and, its still early in the season. This was a nationally televised game that a lot of fans including myself were waiting to see. Miami and the spurs play what, maybe 2 or three times a season? The Nba is a business and they are selling a product. This hurt the product on display big time last night! Also, as a competitor, how can you not want to try and beat the champs???? I know it was a close game but miami showed no interest until mid way through the 4th quarter. Rest against non playoff teams or at least during games that aren’t being promoted and nationally televised.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    this has nothing to do with the fans. nothing. thinking that is naive. this is about keeping the $980Million Dollar a year business partner (TNT) happy. That’s it.

  • spit hot fiyah

    true, if this was on a friday when there is like 9 other games on it would have been that big of a deal

  • KC

    They just played the magic, wizards, raptors and pacers…. All much better teams to rest against! He just conceded a loss when POP could have rested and still probably beat some of those teams. Also, do all 4 of the players have to rest on the same night? Something tells me that there was more to this than just getting them rest but we will never know.

  • KC

    I agree totally!

  • Drig’r

    The fact of the matter is that SAS didn’t throw the towel in. They gave the fans their money’s worth and almost pulled off a huge upset. If it was a lopsided contest, which would certainly be the case if you consider LAL’s bench, THEN Stern *might* have a point.

  • Seth

    Actually, the Spurs rested four – Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Green. Green isn’t a star, but he’s a starter.

  • pposse

    i sure as hell didnt watch a second of that game. I wonder what the tv rating ended up at.

  • Seth

    Joey vs Timmy is a classic – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOygTd1NWCM

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i bet it was higher than expected actually. this sh*t blew up on twitter, and i’ve talked to at least 5 people who only watched because of the controversy.


    Mess with TNT and things get blown outta propotion (pun intended). I see nothing wrong with what Pop did last night. The league wants to jump all over Pop, but doesnt seem like Duncan, Parker, Ginobli or Green objected to the move. They trust their coach and his thinking. If the players and the Spurs organization have nothing to say about it, neither should the league. Spurs still almost won too! That wouldve been somethin!

  • Paul Edwards

    Sorry guys… this was an arrogant move by Pop…. I think he’s a great coach and funny too… but excuse me? He could have rested the guys in earlier games on the trip. He could have not sent them home and played them LESS minutes… He could have done a lot of other things… I was up for this game knowing as a long time Basketball fan these two teams are very likely to be playing each other in the finals… and I’m not a Spurs OR Heat fan! When you act from arrogance (and this includes me), you pay now and in the future…. For maybe the first time I agree with Stern…

  • madrapper

    Once again, I’m telling you, Stern is a fucking Jew. I’m not being anti-semitic, just stating the facts.

  • Redd

    Again, it won’t matter that he retires. Adam Silver is his guy, it’ll be like Stern never left.

  • hillbilly

    No complaints, here. I think it’s great strategy by Popovich. Back in the 80s, K.C. Jones effectively cut short the careers of Larry Legend & Kevin McHale by playing them every minute of every freakin’ game, no matter how meaningless it was.

  • RayJr

    Guess not. It was just an idea

  • Sarah

    Exactly. Hats off to Buck Harvey’s for writing this article. He also found a quote from Stern’s man Adam Silver regarding one of the past instances of Pop doing this, “Strategic resting of particular players on particular nights is within the discretion of the teams.” It’s true that it’s disappointing for true fans who rarely get a chance to see these players, but it’s also true that’s not the reason Stern is upset. If it was, he would’ve acted sooner. His motives are very clear, and he is very clearly in the wrong to punish the Spurs with no rule against what they did.

  • Sarah

    *Buck Harvey

  • RayJr

    Yeah they are old and banged up but it’s still weak that Pop sat them. Even in football where players go through a lot more punishment, if teams have already clinched a playoff birth the starters will still play the 1st quarter or at least a couple of series.

  • Mr. Wet

    This is dumb. If stern wouldn’t have made a statement, people would have forgot about this before the weekend. Now sports media is doing their thing to make it a major headline. Pop’s job is win a ring, that’s what he’s doing and has done for years. Teams rest players, pop rests players more often. Phoenix rested shaq on back to backs, teams rest players in April. This should have never been a headline, Stern shot himself in the ass.

  • lpzx

    I think the Coach knows what,s best for his team..that why he has a great team year after year.. let him coach. I also think stern should retire now, why wait he’s all washed up! you made your money now go spend it!!

  • http://tinyurl.com/GoingtotheKnicksGame SpeedsterNYC

    Stern is an idiot. Its Pop’s team. They got a lot of veterans and not only that, they almost beat the Heat anyways! 4 games in 5 nights. Dumb dumb, Stern. http://tinyurl.com/GoingtotheKnicksGame

  • http://www.facebook.com/puscas.mihai.stefan Puscas Mihai

    Why doesn’t Stern try to punish teams when they intentionally tank the season for a better draft lottery odds?

  • KC

    No your thinking is Naive if you think that TNT is not going to re up their contract with the NBA because of this or change the revenue they pay the NBA. The NBA is seeing it best ratings since jordan and There are tons of networks that would line up to carry the NBA if TNT was foolish enough to not sign a new deal after the current deal ends in 2016. I know people hate david stern (i don’t like him myself) but don’t let your hatred of him blind you to thinking everything he does is wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    did i say TNT wasn’t going to reup? anywhere?
    who do you think this made mad that matters….some fans? or TNT?
    The answer is TNT.
    You know who they b*tched too?
    David Stern
    And who reacted like a petulant child before the game started?
    David Stern.
    What he did here was wrong. There is no defense of his actions. Even if he did it as a reaction to his biggest cash cow whining in his ear. He shouldn’t have said anything about sanctions before the game started. and he shouldn’t have done it in the public way he did. he was wrong. plain and simple.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    read the article Woj posted on Yahoo about this. It will open your eyes.

  • Sexual Chocolate

    Stern represents the owner’s, and his job is to put the best product on the floor especially during prime time nationally televised games, This league is sold on Stars and teams sell alot of there packages based on who’s coming to town, in esscense it would be like the wizards selling out when say okc or miami is playing and the big three don’t play or the big two now in okc, as a fan i’d feel cheated because I paid to see the stars play not watch my wizards play mediocre competition.
    And for that very reason forget about Stern since everybody just likes to hate him in general, the League cannot allow a precedence to take place where teams can sit there star players for a break or whatever reason as it would cheat the fans out of what they paid to see and what teams charge more to see,

    Thats like you paying for a concert and they switch out the band you paid to see with some random local group you’ve never heard of, I’d bet you’d be pissed and you’d want your money back.pronto.
    Now granted they need to fix these insane schedules so fatigue wont be an issue because that kills a good game as well. Bottom line the league needs to fix there schedules and this was simply Stern pissed over a nationally televised game being missed by stars in such a public setting that he could not let it pass, what they need to do is fix the schedules so you dont have one team (miami) getting over a week off and having another older team at that coming off of 4 or 5 games in such short a span

  • LakeShow

    I’d hit em with a quarter million dollar fine.

  • professorfate

    Saying you’re not being anti-Semitic does not mean your aren’t. Saying what you said does make you anti-Semitic. You said what anti-Semitics say; ergo, you are anti-Semitic. That being said, Stern is a control freak and from all accounts a jackass.