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.
The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:
Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?
Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:
I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.
Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.
But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.
His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.
Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.
So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.
The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.
Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.
After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).
But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?
The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.
He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.
But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.
I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.
John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.
An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.
But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.