San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of the best in the business, but he made a terrible decision Thursday night.
On Thursday, when the Spurs were scheduled to play a highly anticipated road game against the Miami Heat, Popovich decided to hold a glorified scrimmage for his back-up players instead.
The Spurs did not even bring stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and role player Danny Green to the game, while Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard were already out with injuries. That left the Spurs with just nine players in uniform and fans wondering who they were watching.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley even joked that he had never heard of Spurs starter Nando De Colo before five minutes prior to the game.
Popovich defended his decision and said he wanted to rest Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green, just as he has rested starters in previous years.
If you look at Popovich’s perspective, you can see some reasoning for the decision, even if it was terrible.
First of all, the most obvious reason is that the game against the Heat was the sixth road game in the last nine days. The Spurs have an older lineup and Popovich doesn’t want to risk injuring any of his stars by playing them when they are tired.
Resting the stars for one game will also help them be fresh for the next few games.
Also, the Spurs went into the game 13-3 and winners of their last five games. Popovich likely knew that the Spurs would probably get beat by the Heat no matter who played, so he might as well rest his starters. Also, with five wins already on the road trip, a loss would just knock the Spurs down to 5-1 on the trip, which is still great.
Popovich also likely wants to get more playing time for his bench players, and going up against the Heat is a good experience for them. It also allowed Popovich to evaluate the bench guys that he may need to rely on later in the year.
Finally, by benching his stars, Popovich was under no pressure to beat the Heat, and he knew that if his team somehow pulled out a win he would look like a great coach.
So, that’s why Popovich did this and why some people are sticking up for him.
Here’s why it was an awful decision:
First of all, these guys are supposed to be some of the top athletes in the world. It’s only November and they should be able to make it through a few road games in a row without being too tired to play. Again, it’s only November. The season just started! It’s ridiculous to have to rest them already.
Also, while they have been on the road for a while, they will now be home for the next week. The Spurs play at home on Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies, then on Wednesday at home against the Milwaukee Bucks and then next Friday at home against the Houston Rockets. The team will have plenty of time to rest.
Finally, the NBA is more than just guys playing basketball in a gym. Coaches like Popovich may act like they don’t understand this, but the reason the coaches and players get paid so much is because the NBA is a show. TV networks pay lots of money to show games like Spurs-Heat, and people are paying hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to attend these games. Coaches can’t just sacrifice games because they think it makes sense basketball-wise.
If I am paying a lot of money to see the Heat take on the Spurs, I don’t want to see the Heat take on the Spurs D-League team. Fans pay to see the stars. Sitting one star to rest is ok, but sitting three down is unacceptable.
The NBA’s popularity is based on its star players and entertainers. Fans don’t pay big bucks to see the jerseys, they want to see the stars. And unless the best players are hurt, they need to be on the court.