San Antonio Spurs to Get in Trouble for Resting Stars Against Miami

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bill-swift - December 1, 2012

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is a crafty veteran head coach working on his 16th season as the man in charge of turning Tim Duncan and company into champions. Over the years he has been pretty good at it too having been crowned NBA Champions four times ('99, '03, '05, and '07).

So then why has NBA commissioner David Stern vowed to levy "substantial sanctions" against the Spurs for what was essentially Popovich just doing his job?

Thursday night Spurs were scheduled to face off with the Miami Heat in Miami. It was the sixth and final game of a nine-day road trip; a trip in which the Spurs had yet to lose. With the defending champions up next it was going to be pretty hard to win a sixth game in a row.

Rather than be concerned about winning one game Popovich decided to look at the big picture. He has an older roster that has a habit of wearing down as the season goes on; it's something that killed the team the last two seasons in the playoffs.

So instead of wearing them down further after a grueling road trip he opted to send four of his stars home (starters Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and bench stud Danny Green) instead of using them against the Heat.

Stern was reportedly furious. How dare Popovich make such a marquee match-up of potential Finals competitors more like a glorified preseason game? Before the game even started he issued a statement saying that substantial sanctions would be coming against the Spurs and apologized to the fans for their actions.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. An 82-game regular season is grueling for even the young players to handle, but for older rosters like the Spurs it can be disastrous if the team is not managed appropriately. San Antonio has had issues with injuries late in the season the last two years.

A little rest here and there can be exactly what a player needs to keep from getting hurt. That was likely what Popovich was doing when he made the decision that he did.

From a fan's standpoint it is kind of a bummer when you think you are going to see two of the best teams in the league play and you get the B team from one of them. That being said, where in the rules does it say that a team is required to play anyone at any particular time during the season? As far as I've ever heard, personnel decisions are up to the individual teams.

What will make this perplexing if Stern follows through is that it is nothing new. Popovich held Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili out of three games last season without getting punished.  So why does Stern want to do so now?

Incidentally, with four of his starters at home and two other key players injured the Spurs still nearly won the game. Miami needed a three-pointer by Ray Allen to take the lead (100-98) with 22 seconds left en route to a 105-100 final. Had any of the Big Three been there who knows what could have happened.

Regardless of what outcomes could have been possible the decision of who to play and when is up to the team. Hopefully Stern will come to his senses and let one of the best coaches in the NBA just do his job.

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