Gregg Popovich has done this before. More than once. Three times last season he rested his stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all at once.
And while David Stern never got involved until last night, fans at those games were not happy (and there was some grumbling from some quarters of the media).
When Popovich did it in Portland last season, a fan wrote him and complained that he had paid good money to see these stars and he was unhappy. Popovich said he responded to the letter, reports Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
“I got a letter from a gentleman who was disappointed because he came to the game with his cousin, they paid money and they wanted to see so-and-so and so-and-so. I wrote him back and I said, ‘If I was in your position, I would write the same letter. I agree with you totally. You’re right. But my priorities are different than yours.’ In the general sense, frankly, everything doesn’t go our way in life. Everything go your way every day? Sometimes things happen. That’s the way it goes.”
Popovich has one priority — do what is best for the San Antonio Spurs team. His team was on a the final game of a six-game road trip Sunday, was playing the second game of a back-to-back and their fourth game in five days, going up against a Heat team that had the last four days off. That is what you call a schedule-maker’s loss. The Spurs were 5-0 on the road trip so far and Popovich thought his veteran stars looked a little tired so he gave them the night off.
He did what he felt was right for his Spurs — not for the Heat fans, not for TNT (which was to broadcast the game), not for the greater business of the league, but for the Spurs team. That is his lone goal. David Stern, the fans, the media have other priorities. Stern can inject those priorities into Popovich’s decision making, but it’s not a simple question.
And Popovich gets all that. He just had different priorities.