San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich has decided that he will not play power forward Tim Duncan, as well as guards Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green against the Miami Heat on November 29th. This decision appears to be in a fit of disgust over the Spurs’ recent schedule, which calls for them to play four games in five nights. In contrast, the Heat were required to play only four games in a sixteen day span. That span started with a 110-108 home victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 24th.
Many South Floridians might be upset over the prospect of their World Champion Heat playing against what amounts to San Antonio’s junior varsity team. However, as a South Florida resident, I applaud Popovich’s decision. His apparent displeasure over the Spurs’ recent grueling schedule sends a message to the league that he’s going to give his best players the rest they deserve, instead of subjugating them to a meaningless early season matchup.
What can NBA commissioner David Stern do? It’s not like Popovich is intentionally throwing the game; therefore, the integrity of the game isn’t compromised. Would Stern and NBA fans want the best players to be available for every game? Of course they would. I would love to see Popovich let Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Green play.
However, Popovich is not in the NBA to placate fans, or even Stern, in regards to his team’s playing time. Coach Popovich is only concerned about the welfare of the San Antonio Spurs. With the exception of Green, the Spurs’ players sitting out the Heat game are age 30 or older. Why would Popovich risk fatiguing those players for short term gain? Considering that San Antonio is a perennial NBA playoff participant, Popovich would want Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Green fresh for a playoff run.
Those disappointed in the absence of the Spurs’ best players will get over it. Popovich has four NBA championships on his resume, so he has the cache to send his best players home to rest if he so desires. If San Antonio embarks on a deep playoff run that ends in the organization’s fifth NBA title, maybe the in season vacation Popovich gave his best players will be the reason why.