- Last Updated: 4:26 AM, December 1, 2012
- Posted: 1:31 AM, December 1, 2012
The Spurs have taken perhaps the most expensive R & R session in NBA history.
Fulfilling his vow to levy “substantial sanctions,” NBA commissioner David Stern socked the Spurs with a whopping $250,000 fine last night for sending four starters home Thursday and announcing the decision at the last minute, rather than have them conclude a grueling road trip in Miami.
“The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case,” Stern said in a statement released by the league. “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.”
A spokesman for the Spurs said the team would not comment on Stern’s decision. The Spurs play an important Southwest Conference game at home tonight against Memphis — which played a large role in coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to rest his core four of Tim Duncan, 36, Tony Parker, 30, Manu Ginobili, 35, and Danny Green, who is only 25, but second in minutes on the team. Popovich is expected to speak on the matter before tonight’s game.
Popovich ignited the firestorm when he sent his players home rather than bring them to Miami for the conclusion of a brutal six-game, nine-day road trip that included four games in the final five days.
Despite the absence of the four starters, the Spurs gave Miami fits before losing, 105-100, in the nationally televised game. The fact the game was on national TV no doubt irked Stern even more. The league also is defending fans who paid to see the individual stars the NBA has marketed for so long.
The league found “The Spurs’ actions were in violation of a league policy, reviewed with the NBA Board of Governors in April 2010, against resting players in a manner contrary to the best interests of the NBA.”
Popovich, though, went with what he felt was best for his team. The Spurs came home from the trip trailing Memphis by two games in the Southwest Conference.
It is not the first time the NBA has come down on coaches for resting players and going against “the best interests” of the league. In 1990, Stern whacked the Lakers for $25,000 after Pat Riley rested Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Mychal Thompson for the final game of the season in preparation for the playoffs.
Coaches have routinely rested players since then without penalty — but usually those occurrences are near the end of the season, not merely a month into it. Popovich last season sat Duncan with “old” as the reason in the boxscore.
Popovich explained his reason for resting his four players.
“This month, we’ve had 11 away games,” Popovich said before Thursday’s game. “We’ve had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we’re ending it with four [games] in five nights. I think it’d be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history.”
After Popovich’s move was made public, Stern freaked, apologized to NBA fans, said the move was “unacceptable” and promised substantial sanctions.
In Boston, Celtics coach Doc Rivers supported Popovich.
“I don’t like [the fine],” Rivers told reporters. “You’ve got to coach your team to win in the long run and you have to do whatever you need to do. If that’s sitting players, you sit players.”
Before the game against Washington at the Garden last night, Knicks coach Mike Woodson sidestepped the issue.
“I’m not going there,” Woodson said. “That’s Pop and his team. I got to worry about our team.”
Some players, including Jason Kidd, supported Popovich’s move.
“That’s his team,’’ Kidd said. “He’s coach of that team. He has every right to do, what’s right for the team. It’s an older team. I did the same thing in Dallas and took a week off [during the 2011 championship season].”
Carmelo Anthony took a diplomatic route.
“I’m from the Western Conference,” he said. “[Popovich has] done that before. It’s between him and David Stern.”Follow @NYPostsports