Thursday night hoops on TNT, one of the national television spotlights for the NBA's top stars. Just not this past Thursday. The Miami Heat played host to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, and with the Spurs playing their fourth Eastern Conference road game in five days Greg Popovich decided to send aging superstars, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker home early. In what was supposed to be a nationally televised battle of both Miami's and San Antonio's "Big Three" instead became a showcase of San Antonio role players.
Still, the Spurs played well and would have won the game if Ray Allen hadn't knocked down a three-pointer with 22.3 seconds left in the game. A thrilling win for home town Miami fans, right? As ESPN.com reports, David Stern didn't think so, issuing this statement before tip-off about Popovich's decision to sit his stars:
"I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."
To be upset because Popovich's decision deprived paying NBA fans from getting what they thought was a "promised" match-up of the league elite is understandable. It's true that fans who came to see a potential Finals preview didn't get that product. But complaining about an NBA game or any sporting event isn't like complaining about a movie that gets cut short. You're promised an ending at the movie theater, with a pro-basketball game all that's promised is professional basketball. Look at the tape, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter have NBA logos on their jerseys. Thursday night was still an NBA basketball game.
David Stern is mad because the stars didn't play. Playing time is the coaches decision, not the commissioner's. If David Stern goes out and fines the San Antonio Spurs, he'll be doing it because he disagreed with a coaching decision. Does this mean Stern has the right to fine a team if they don't play their stars enough? Or if a player is taken out after a minute of play? Probably not, but a David Stern fine against the Spurs could send that message.
Coaches make decisions based on what they think will benefit their teams. With a young team, coaches get paid to develop and play the young talent. But with a veteran roster attempting to make another title run, the coach is making decisions with the playoffs in mind. Tim Duncan is 36, Manu Ginobili is 35, Tony Parker is 30, and the playoffs have never been in November. A fine is most likely coming San Antonio's way, but David Stern should think twice about what fining the Spurs says about the NBA.Tags: Basketball, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, NBA