In April of 2010 after a meeting of the league’s Board of Governors, David Stern addressed the media, as is his custom. The topic of when teams should or shouldn’t be able to rest players came up then, and Stern said he and the teams discussed it.
No conclusion was reached in terms of outlining exactly when it was OK for teams to do so, but Stern said it would be on the league’s radar, and that he believed it should ultimately be left to each team’s discretion — unless that discretion was abused.
While Stern and owners do not publicly detail every discussion from those meetings, Stern indeed told reporters at a news conference on April 16 that owners discussed resting players.
“And we also had what I would call a spirited discussion on the subject of players being rested down the stretch. And I think it’s fair to say that there was no conclusion reached, other than a number of teams thought that it should be at the sole discretion of the team, coach, general manager, and I think it’s fair to say that I agree with that, unless that discretion is abused.
“And so it’s something we’ll be watching carefully with respect to next season, recognizing that it probably should be a team issue, and I’ve seen my colleagues in other sports deal with it or not deal with it, particularly in the NFL this last time leading into the playoffs.”
Flash forward now to November of 2012, and the San Antonio Spurs seem to have discovered the level of abuse it takes, in the eyes of the commissioner’s office, for that discretion to be punished.
As you may have heard by now, the league fined the Spurs $250,000 for resting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green for Thursday night’s nationally televised game in Miami against the defending champion Heat. All four starters were perfectly healthy, but Gregg Popovich cited the team’s schedule, which had the Spurs playing their fourth game in five nights, as the reason for giving his starters the night off.
Whether you agree with Stern’s decision or not, and despite there being no formal rule in place detailing when this is OK and when it isn’t, we now know that the subject was at least discussed with team owners not that long ago.
Based on what we know now, the fact that the Spurs not only rested four starters for a marquee game, but flew them home that morning feels like a slap in the face, and seems to be in line with the abuse of discretion Stern was talking about.
With this discussion having already taken place, Stern clearly felt that he had to do something about it.