Gregg Popovich, David Stern

League fines Spurs $250,000 for not playing stars vs. Miami

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David Stern has drawn his line in the sand… we think. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about where that line is and what is and is not allowed.

But the NBA has brought the hammer down. A big hammer.

The NBA has fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for sending Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home and not having them available to play against the Miami Heat in a nationally televised game on Thursday night. Stern pretty much had no choice but to fine the Spurs after he came out before the game with a statement saying there would be “substantial sanctions” on the Spurs for their actions.

Here is Stern’s statement with the fine:

“The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case. 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.”

As for what rule the Spurs violated, here is what the league said in its release: “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.”

The large fine was aimed at the ownership group led by Peter Holt, clearly wanting them to be the heavies next time Gregg Popovich wants to rest his best players.

This move by Stern leaves a lot of questions going forward that the league should clarify with teams.

Can teams rest players later in the season as we get closer to the playoffs? Is this simply a matter of notification — if Popovich had said he was going to do this three days in advance could the Spurs have avoided the fine? Is the league now going to be into scrutinizing lineups, especially since you can be sure some teams will suddenly have players who have minor injuries that need a night off to rest?

This completely feels like David Stern sending the message to NBA coaches and teams not to mess with nationally televised games, the marquee games. Don’t go resting Kobe Bryant on Christmas, Mike D’Antoni.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.