Gregg Popovich, coaching mastermind that he is, went over his schedule at the beginning of the season and sought out a few games in rough patches in said schedule in which he would bench some of his aging stars, of which he has a few. One of those games was tonight in Miami, where Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili didn’t even make the trip to South Beach. Popovich didn’t want the three, plus Danny Green, to play a fourth game in five days, but that move is not without repercussions.
Popovich sending his best players on a commercial flight back to Texas to prepare for a home bout against the Grizzlies on Saturday night did not sit will with the commish. Via ESPN.com:
“I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said in a statement. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
I guess I’d be pretty pissed if I was a Heat fan buying tickets to this game, thinking I was going to see my team take on the class of the Western Conference, only to be presented with the backups — even if the Heat only could barely squeak by the Spurs B-team, 105-100. Though that’s nothing compared to what I’d be feeling if this game was at home, and I was a miserly Spurs fan who only bought tickets to one game a year, wanted to see the Spurs take on the defending champs, only to arrive and see Thiago Splitter starting instead of Tim Duncan.
At least Pop had the decency to do it on the road, though he wasn’t very forgiving:
“It’s the best thing for our team,” Popovich said. “Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule. We’ve done this before in hopes we’re making a wiser decision and not a macho decision. Perhaps it’ll give us an opportunity to stay on the floor with Memphis on Saturday night.”
“Every team goes through tough months travelwise,” Popovich said. “You don’t bitch and moan about it. You deal with it the best way you can.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Popovich has benched his stars by this reasoning, and we shouldn’t have expected anything less from one of the savviest, most resourceful coaches in the NBA. But this time, he’s gonna pay. A November 29 game doesn’t carry many implications (OK, it’s a basically meaningless) game, and Popovich is just trying to take care of his players, but you don’t go to a Broadway show to see the understudies. Seems fair enough.
[ESPN.com, Getty Images]