There were no injuries and it is only about a month into the current season. Yet San Antonio Spurs' head coach Greg Popovich decided to sit his star players against the Miami Heat last night. Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green back to San Antonio while the rest of the team traveled to Miami to face the heat. It was supposed to be a big-time match-up on national television. However, Popovich chose to send his best players home, and that brought the wrath (if only verbal) of commissioner David Stern.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN said the Spurs played their 11th road game of the month last night. While that is a lot of road games, the need for rest so early in the season is questionable. Could Popovich have been sending a message to the NBA about his displeasure with the scheduling this year? Perhaps. But ultimately it doesn't matter. He didn't break any rules.
Stern threatened sanctions against the Spurs and sent out an official release from the NBA apologizing for the Spurs' actions. While Stern may be upset that a marquee game became a lot less marquee and that paying customers were robbed of their chance to see big name players, there isn't much the commissioner can do. There are no rules in place about resting players.
In fact, it would be difficult to put a rule in place about a coach's choice to rest players. The Player's Association would surely step in if players were forced to play and not allowed to rest when a coach saw fit.
But Stern has sent a message to the rest of the league. He won't tolerate this - even if he doesn't yet have recourse against it.
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