NBA Commissioner David Stern is not the man anyone wants to cross. He is regarded as one of the most powerful men in professional sports. He was not pleased with the decision of San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich to rest key players against the Miami Heat November 29th. Popovich gave forward Tim Duncan, as well as guards Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green the night off against the Heat. This was done in an effort to rest Popovich’s best players amidst a current four game, five night stretch.
This did not sit well with Commissioner Stern, whose concern is not necessarily with the health of the Spurs’ best players. No, the commissioner’s focus is providing the best NBA product night in and night out. That means unless star players are so injured that they can’t walk or run, they’d better be out on that court. Fans pay top dollar to see the NBA’s best perform, and the commissioner will make sure that no one prevents that from happening.
Stern issued a statement before the Spurs-Heat game stating that sanctions against Popovich could be forthcoming. I wonder under what grounds Stern would impose sanctions against Popovich. Can someone show me where in the NBA rulebook does it say that all NBA teams must play their star players every night? Would Stern fine Popovich for “conduct detrimental to the NBA?” If so, what exactly is that conduct?
Despite my desire to see the best NBA players on the court at all times, Popovich doesn’t owe that to me or anyone else outside of Spurs’ ownership. That includes the commissioner. With four NBA titles to his credit, Popovich has earned the right to play anyone he wants. Besides, how ironic would it be if San Antonio were to beat Miami with the immortal Tiago Splitter leading the way? Wouldn’t that leave the commissioner with egg on his face?
Whether or not sanctions against Popovich are imposed remain to be seen. Nevertheless, Popovich and the legendary retired head coach Phil Jackson are the only coaches that could rest their star players during inopportune times of the season. Sanctions from Commissioner Stern against Popovich would only rekindle talk of the NBA’s sometimes dubious reputation.