Good luck finding anyone in the NBA coaching fraternity who does not side with San Antonio's Gregg Popovich on what transpired last Thursday night.
Popovich decided to rest the Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, plus starter Danny Green, and had them fly home before the Spurs' nationally televised game at Miami.
While San Antonio was playing its fourth game in five nights, the Heat was playing its third game in 11 days — all at home — and hadn't played anyone in five days. The Spurs also were finishing a 10-day road trip and closing a November that included a franchise-record 10 road games.
This horrid scheduling discrepancy led Popovich to make what he considered a “logical” decision to go Big Three-less. It also sent a message to NBA commissioner David Stern, who responded by fining the Spurs $250,000 because Popovich's decision “did a disservice to the league and our fans.”
Had Thursday's game not been against the defending champs and on TNT, there's a good chance Stern would have taken no action.
Sure, Popovich could have been handled things differently: His players could have rested, but remained with the team; Green is 25 years old, so how tired could he really be; rest your players incrementally throughout the road trip; and if you're going to rest all four at once, why not do it against the Washington Wizards or Orlando Magic and still walk away with a win?
“It's his team,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said of Popovich. “Since San Antonio has been so successful, who am I to criticized or critique what they're doing there. We're trying to grow and get to where they are.”
If the Spurs stunk, perhaps some NBA coaches might question Thursday's tactic, but the Spurs most certainly do not stink.
Popovich is widely revered as the game's premier coach. His success in San Antonio the past 16 seasons has brought four world championships, an 843-356 (.703) regular-season record and 118-77 (.605) postseason mark.
Popovich has manipulated his roster in the past and likely will continue to do so. Whether this is a savvy move or savvy showmanship is a matter of interpretation.
What should not be up for debate is Popovich's right to do as he pleases, when he pleases.
Kelly Dwyer (@KDonhoops): “I'd like to thank David Stern for ensuring that cats + dogs will never co-mingle and preventing rampant public copulation in the high street.”
Marc Stein (@ESPNSTEINLINE): “Steep as a $250,000 fine sounds for Spurs, they surely feared sanctions more ‘substantial,' like making Pop sit for a game.”
Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT): “FWIW, responses I've seen so far on twitter are 100 percent against Stern and for the Spurs.”
Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN): “Honest question: Next time a coach wants to rest players, what is the protocol that would satisfy NBA?”
Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople): “Meanwhile, Donald Sterling has escaped major sanctions for the 31st year ...”
Chris Palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer): “Be careful. You wouldn't like Gregg Popovich when he's angry.”
Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla): “Thank goodness Stan Van Gundy wasn't coaching the Spurs.”
Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI): “Now, whenever the NBA suspects a team is tanking, they have to fine them. Have to. Tanking is worse than what Pop did.”
Rick Bonnel (@rick_bonnell): “I'm told one of the things that made the Spurs thing a big deal to the league was a pattern of sitting players mostly for road games.”
Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper): “No penalty for Popovich. Clearly, Stern understands that chastising him for not being more forthcoming with the media is hit enough for Pop.”
Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel): “Stern was going to fine the Wizards 250K for their starting five tonight until he realized that was their starting five.”
Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell): “Can you imagine how awkward it would have been if David Stern fined the Spurs $250K and they won the game?”
David Robinson (@DavidtheAdmiral): “Our @spurs have a brutal road schedule & Pop is a master at keeping guys fresh throughout the season. Us older folks need rest #smartPop”
League MVP LeBron James on Popovich's decision to sit four starters against the Heat: “I don't think Pop was in the wrong. It's not in the rules to tell you you can't send your guys home. The commish made his decision and everybody else will deal with it.”