MIAMI (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs will be punished by the NBA for their decision to send four top players home and not make them available to play in Miami against the Heat on Thursday night.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the decision to rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green — the core of the Spurs — was in the team's best interest. The league wasn't happy about it, and Commissioner David Stern promised that San Antonio would be penalized.
"I apologize to all NBA fans," Stern said. "This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."
Stern's statement was released roughly the same time as tip-off in Miami for a nationally televised game.
Before the game, Popovich said he decided to sit his core when he saw how challenging this particular part of the schedule was for his team. Thursday's matchup ended a six-games-in-nine-nights swing for the Spurs, who won their first five on the trip.
"Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing," Popovich said before the game. "In our case, this month we've had 11 away games, after tonight. We've had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we're ending it with four (games) in five nights here. I think it'd be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history."
It's not unlike other moves Popovich has made before; in fact, not only did he give Duncan, Parker and Ginobili time off together toward the end of last season, which was condensed by a lockout, he actually flew home to San Antonio with them and took a two-game, pre-playoff sabbatical.
This time, when Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green flew home — reportedly on a Southwest Airlines flight on Thursday from Orlando, where the team played one night earlier — Popovich stayed with the Spurs for the trip to Miami.
Duncan is in his 16th NBA season, Parker his 12th and Ginobili his 11th. Green is a kid compared to those guys — 25 years old and a veteran of only 110 NBA games — but Popovich said he chose to rest him as well because Green has played a lot.