When David Stern issued a statement stating the league would be fining the Spurs $250,000 for resting four starters on Thursday night in Miami, it was sure to create some controversy.
There was no rule specifically stating Gregg Popovich could not sit his players whenever he chooses, so handing down a steep punishment for it doesn’t seem like a decision brimming with justice.
Not surprisingly, veteran and esteemed head coach Doc Rivers wasn’t in favor of the ruling, and told reporters so before his Celtics faced the Blazers on Friday.
“I don’t like it, I just don’t like it,” Rivers said before Boston’s game Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. “I do get the other side of it, but it’s a tough one. You have to coach your team to win in the long haul, and you have to do whatever you need to do. If that’s sitting players, then you sit players. It’s a tough one.”
Would Rivers shy away from resting his veterans in a similar situation?
“Listen, we’ll do it when we want to do it. And we should be able to do it,” said Rivers. “It can be early in the season, end of the season. Now if we give a guy [a day] off because he has a family thing — it’s just so many things here. Hopefully we all figure it out.”
Rivers was candid with his comments, but his words were also to be expected.
Every coach in the league wants the option to make personnel decisions from night-to-night based on whatever criteria they feel is best — for their individual team, and for that individual game.
Stern’s hefty fine makes it a little trickier to do that moving forward, though something tells me that coaches as wily as Rivers and Popovich will always find a way to make their own decisions.