by Ryan Meehan
Thursday San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich made a decision that I didn’t think was going to end up being very controversial. He decided that he was going to rest four of his players due to the fact that it was the end of a difficult road stretch. Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Danny Green all did not travel to Miami with the team to face the Heat.
Friday, Stern responded by slapping the franchise with a $250,000 fine. In an effort to help explain why, he released the following statement:
“The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case,” Stern said in a statement. “The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.” Stern’s explanation also cited the fact that a team is required to report to the league as soon as it knows a player won’t play.
There are two important points I want to make here:
1) The fine is outrageous regardless of the amount of money a professional sports team is worth
2) David Stern is only upset about this whole situation because the Miami Heat were on the other end of it
Let’s examine the first one. We’re talking about a quarter of a million dollars for giving four guys the night off. We are all aware of how much money a pro sports franchise makes, but that isn’t the point here. Where did that figure even come from? Were Stern’s crack team full of specialists able to determine the exact financial ramifications of the disappointment of the fans that attended a Thursday Night Miami Heat game?
Of course, the argument here is that if you spend the money to go see a game you would expect all of the players to be there. My response to that would be: Life is full of disappointments. Everybody keeps saying “Well, what if you took your kid to a game and the starters weren’t playing”? Then the kid’s going to learn early in his life that there will be all sorts of things along the way that fall short of his expectations. I could literally sit here all night and come up with a thousand different reasons that it would be good for your kid. And by the way, anytime anybody starts any sentence with “Well, what if it was your kid…” you don’t have to listen to of the nonsense they follow it up with.
This is also a tad hypocritical. Baseball also has a very long season and in baseball, this happens all of the time. And believe it or not, not even Bud Selig is dumb enough to try and hit any of those teams with a shot like that. If Josh Hamilton doesn’t want to play Thursday, he tells Ron Washington and then he doesn’t play. It’s as simple as that. The “punishment” does not fit the “crime” if it even is a “crime” in the first place. And since in another sport, it’s not…it shouldn’t be here either.
Now let’s take a brief look at the second one…Let’s face it, Stern is much more concerned with the larger markets and bigger stars. Any game where there is major star power he does everything to protect everyone involved with that game. In this instance, a game involving LeBron James was affected so he felt he had to make a statement.
My point is, if this had happened in a game against the Sacramento Kings you and I may not even have noticed. Even with all of the aides that report to Stern and the young Asian boys he keeps around his house to massage him in his sauna, I’m not even sure he would have cared at all either. If he did, the second that he realized it was only against the Kings he would probably tune out and go back to not caring again. He is much more willing to have an opinion on games that involve the league’s bigger stars.
It’s not that there isn’t anything wrong with having that belief, but to use it as the basis for a fine is crazy talk. And it certainly wasn’t the case back in 2010, when LeBron James rested for four straight games and Stern didn’t fine them at all. So not only is it obvious that he’s trying to protect the games that involve the league’s biggest cash cow, he’s also willing to bend the rules so that guy can get away with it if he’s the one who wants to sit down.
In the end, the problem here once again lies with the commissioners in professional sports believing that they are bigger than the competition itself. We are living in a time where all four commissioners in “The Big Four” of professional sports are complete shitheads, and with the exception of the NFL they have suffered because of it. I understand that it is a commissioner’s job to manage the way that a league operates, but I also believe that there has to be a certain level of trust there. David Stern should have trusted that Gregg Popovich knew what he was doing and that it was the right basketball decision to make. Instead, he just turned it into a way where the league could nab more money from them and have his name on the front page of the sports section. It’s not as if Pop won those championships simply not knowing how to manage his talent, he’s the best coach in the league when it comes to doing that. In this case, the Spurs are an aging team and he is trying to manage that. And micromanaging that is none of Stern’s goddamned business. That’s what the coaches, owners, and trainers are there for. They are there to be trusted, and it’s getting more and more obvious that Stern doesn’t trust them.