The weekly Thursday night game on TNT frequently features some of the top matchups of the week, with this past one being circled on many calendars.
It will be remembered more for what happened on the court than off of it.
Prior to their matchup with the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs had announced that four starters: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green were all being sent home to rest. The move was certainly surprising, yet understandable from a coaching perspective. San Antonio was playing their sixth road game in a row in just nine days, and had just played the Orlando Magic the night before. So head coach Greg Popovich did something any intuitive coach with an older roster would do: send his players home. Nobody seemed to have a problem with it. Disappointing for the NBA fan who planned to take in the game on his couch? Sure, but they weren’t going to lose sleep over it.
But just as it was becoming a non-story, NBA Commissioner David Stern swooped in and promised “severe punishment” for the organization.
On Friday, Stern made it clear what kind of punishment he believed the Spurs deserved, and not only was it severe, it was blasphemous too. He handed out a fine of $250,000 to the San Antonio Spurs, calling the benching “a disservice to the league and fans”. Stern also cited the fact that this was the only time the Heat and Spurs would meet, and that Popovich did not make this information available in a “timely manner”.
Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. In the NFL, for spying on opponents and filming their practices, you get levied a $250,000 fine. In the NBA, it is for resting your players. Tell me, Mr Stern, who is being done a disservice? Are the fans who came out to cheer for Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh more than anyone being done a disservice, or was it a disservice to your ratings last night? I can sure as hell tell you the fans came out happy, because the San Antonio Spurs hung in until the final buzzer. But that just may be a minor detail, as Stern was ready to assert his czar-like dominance over the Spurs before the contest even began.
By fining San Antonio for an ex post facto infraction, David Stern has expanded his duties from Commissioner to head coach of all 30 NBA teams. Coaches are put in place by every team to make player personnel decisions (among many other tasks). However, he has now anointed himself the power to make decisions for the teams, and has (albeit unintentionally) killed the practice of resting players. Teams that have clinched postseason spots are forced to play their starters, or face the consequences. Even in the preseason teams must play their starters, because it would be disingenuous to the fans to do otherwise.
Stern has unknowingly opened Pandora’s Box when it comes to taking action against teams who rest their players, and should continue to take action in similar situations. It isn’t something that is logical, but Stern will now have to stick by the rules he created.
Saying and doing are to different things.
This was not a situation of Stern looking out for the fans, an excuse which is obviously untrue that it is almost laughable. David Stern, the man who helped move remove basketball from Seattle, who is booed mercilessly each and every year at the NBA Draft, is now a man of the people? Absurd. These sanctions were brought upon the Spurs because Popovich sat his players in front of a national audience, and Stern was not going to have it. If the league wants to make sure that all of its all-star caliber players are available in a primetime game, maybe they should learn not to schedule six road games in a nine day period.
Once again, Commissioner Stern has overstepped the boundaries of his job description (trading Chris Paul to the other LA team), and now has the ability to control the day to day operations of an organization. The franchises and their owners are supposed to rule the professional sporting world, yet he has taken advantage of his power and made himself bigger than the league.
Commissioner David Stern has become tyrannical. Now that, is a disservice.
Jake Pavorsky is a contributor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JakePavorsky.