Stern, Popovich and MVP Duncan

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.



Filed under Sports


  1. I think you’re absolutely right about #2. But I think you’re not reading between the lines on #1. 250k is for the rest of America a sustantial amount of money. For an NBA team, even a lower earning one like San Antonio, it is a pitiance. David Stern of course has to act outraged, he has to feign fury for the sake of his network contracts lest people like ESPN and TNT get pissy. The fine itself is really just for show, as I’m sure is Stern’s macho bravado.

    If Stern didn’t want stuff like this to happen he shouldn’t schedule a team for 4 games in 5 night. Four ROAD games. The NHL and NBA both play 82 games during the same time of year. The NHL would NEVER schedule a team to play 4 in 5 days. The NBA does this so it doesn’t have to compete with the NFL. If Stern is really concerned about the product being broadcast he wouldnt make 4 players at the back end of their careers play this game. How good of a perfomance would you get from an exhausted Duncan and crew? Is that good for the NBA? Or TNT?

    The fine is a joke because the schedule is. As with all things David Stern, his words ring hollow and his actions are just for show.
    BTW, House full of asian boys=NIIIIICCE!

    • I don’t understand why he would even care. The Spurs have done everything they possibly can to make America interested in them, and it hasn’t worked. I just don’t really see a need to police that. If you think about it, there’s something incredibly backhanded about that…Just going on the assumption that San Antonio is a very clean, follow the rules, color within the lines group of guys and then when they want something WHICH I BELIEVE TO BE VERY SIMPLE all of a sudden an example is made out of them. It’s shaming but it’s a real dirty form of shaming, if that makes any sense.


  2. I would imagine massaging David Stern would be like greasing up your hands and running them over a Shar-Pei with liver spots.

  3. Too bad Pop didn’t tell David Stern that none of Seattle’s starters would be playing either. Now that would have warranted another $250 million fine!

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