On Friday, Nov. 30, NBA Commissioner David Stern handed down a punitive $250,000 fine to the San Antonio Spurs for sending superstars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili and Tony Parker home before a game at the American Airlines Arena.
Stern believed the “Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.”
The Spurs did indeed lose the game against the Heat, but in a nail-biting, five-point matchup.
Before the game even took place, Stern promised that he would hand down “substantial sanctions” for Head Coach Gregg Popovich’s decision
Stern would not have been as livid if this game had not been a nationally televised matchup. The commissioner valued his relationship with the money-producing television executives more than he did with the head coaches throughout the league, matching his track record.
David Stern indeed has an obligation to oversee the happiness of some of the largest revenue producers that the league interacts with. He, after all, does manage the monetary well being of the NBA. However, disciplining a head coach for his personnel decision making sets a dangerous precedent.
What if Popovich believed that his team had a better chance to win with his bench players than with his fatigued starters? If so, his decision would have been a purely basketball-related one. Head coaches should not have to factor in opposing team’s fans and television deals when making their personnel decisions.
Where does Stern’s control end? If Popovich had not sent some of his players home before the game, but merely sat them on the bench, does Stern still get upset? I do not believe that he does. Therefore, Stern is punishing the way in which Popovich controlled his team, not the action itself.
Both sides of the argument are logical, and reasonable minds can disagree. Because of the Heat’s dynamic pricing system, tickets to the Spurs game were the most expensive that they can reach. The purchase of a ticket entitles the buyer to the possibility of a competitive basketball game and, if applicable, the stars of the visiting team, barring injury. Heat fans received a competitive basketball game and a win to boot. However, they did not get a chance to see the Spurs’ stars on the team’s only visit to South Florida during the regular season.
The real issue in this dilemma does not lie within the Heat fans or the television deals, or the Spurs decision making. The NBA scheduling necessitates a major overhaul. The Spurs game against the Heat was the second half of back-to-back games, and it was their fifth game in seven days – all of them away games. The Heat had played three games in nine days, and it had been five days since their last contest
If Stern values his precious television deal so much, why not construct the schedule in a way that would show off these high-caliber teams when they are at their best?
Gregg Popovich is exactly the type of “don’t care” coach who has the audacity to do something like this.If Popovich knows one thing, it is how to manage his team effectively. After all, the Spurs have not had a losing month in 13 years. It’s hard to tell a team that has that kind of history that they are “doing a disservice to the league and our fans.” I think they have earned a little more credit than that.
Preston Michelson is a senior at Palmer Trinity School where he is the public address announcer for all varsity sporting events. Contact him on Twitter at @PrestonMich or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org