Back on November 29th, Gregg Popovich decided to play some mind games with one of the few teams that he would consider a threat to his San Antonio Spurs. He sat four of his best players against the best team in the NBA, including the legendary trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, as well as Danny Green. Those four players didn’t even travel with the team, as that game would have been their fifth in seven nights.
The Spurs nearly embarrassed the Miami Heat that night, but ended up falling 105-100.
David Stern sanctioned San Antonio accordingly, stamping them with a $250,000 fine for not following the required protocol of alerting league offices as soon as possible when uninjured players aren’t going to play. The Spurs didn’t inform the NBA offices or the Heat, which was a blatant showing of disrespect
Last night, Miami countered.
Prior to taking on the Spurs last night, it was announced that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Mario Chalmers would not play for the Heat. Behind 23 points from Chris Bosh, including the game-winning 3-pointer, Miami gutted out a 88-86 win over the Spurs.
James was sidelined with a strained right hamstring and Wade sat with an ankle injury, and Miami followed the appropriate steps as far as injuries go. Despite the fact that the legitimacy of those injuries are up in the air, the team can’t be fined like San Antonio was.
There is no doubt in my mind that Pat Riley was behind this move. The owner of the Heat, who was one of the biggest factors in luring James to South Beach around three years ago, probably felt shown up by Popovich and the Spurs last time, and decided to one-up them. This is the same guy who released a team statement telling Boston Celtics’ owner Danny Ainge to “shut the f— up and manage his own team,” when his rival criticized Riley’s star player.
The Spurs got beat at their own game, because Miami beat them without its best players. Granted, Ginobli was out with a hamstring injury, but still- San Antonio got shown up.
The Heat and Spurs are #1 and #2 in the NBA, respectively, and have yet to meet each other at full strength. A full-fledged effort from both teams against one another can now only be seen if they meet in the NBA Finals.