Coaches side with Gregg Popovich in rift with David Stern

By John Rohde Published: December 1, 2012
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photo - San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, left, argues a call during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) ORG XMIT: TXEG103
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, left, argues a call during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) ORG XMIT: TXEG103

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.

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