There’s been plenty of discussion over Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to rest his three best players on Thursday, all of whom were healthy, for his team’s nationally televised contest in Miami versus the defending champion Heat.
No matter where you stand on the issue, it’s tough to argue that the league would be better off as a whole if more teams were to follow Pop’s lead on this, but it’s equally tough to argue that the commissioner’s office has any room to punish the Spurs for their actions, with no rules against what the organization did being in place prior to the decision.
One person who didn’t seem to have a problem with it was LebBron James, who addressed this issue specifically during his postgame comments.
“I don’t think Pop was in the wrong,’’ said Heat forward LeBron James, who scored a game-high 23 points. “It’s not in the rules to tell you that you can’t not send your guys here or send your guys home. But the commissioner will make his decision, and everybody else will deal with it.’’
Stern actually did fine the Los Angeles Lakers $25,000 when then coach Pat Riley didn’t play healthy starters Magic Johnson and James Worthy in the 1989-90 regular-season finale at Portland. But that was before it became commonplace in the NBA to rest players at the end of seasons, and not a peep had been heard before from Stern when Popovich had sat out guys.
This is the core issue, and Stern’s largest hurdle in handing down any form of punishment.
A fine more than twenty years ago is hardly a precedent that can be pointed to, especially when the Spurs specifically have done this repeatedly over the last few seasons without consequence.
James may not have an issue with what the Spurs did against his Heat, but plenty of others do — including David Stern, who has an interesting decision to make about how this will be dealt with in the future.