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NBA Commissioner David Stern - Another Blunder in Heat v Spurs game

661   //    01 Dec 2012, 16:11 IST

MIAMI, FL – NOVEMBER 29: Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat reacts to a late game three pointer during a game against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena on November 29, 2012 in Miami, Florida.

David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, has never been among the most loved people on earth. Not among owners. Not among players. Not among sports writers and anchors. To be honest, he endears himself less and less to the fans everyday. The NBA might be a collaboration between 30 teams, but lets not kid ourselves. It is a dictatorship, plain and simple.

Over the last few years, Stern has made many ridiculous decisions and statements. There was the blatant (and borderline racist) move to distance themselves from the American “hip-hop culture” that was criticized by stars like Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley. There was the controversial moving of the Seattle Supersonics franchise. There was his insistence on handing out technical fouls like candy for even the tiniest expressions of emotion. There have been draft controversies, ownership controversies and a pot-pourri of other controversies including his infamous “I know where the bodies are buried, because I put them there myself” comment in the midst of an acrimonious lockout. The list goes on and on.

Two days ago, after going through five games in eight nights, San Antonio Spurs coach Greg “Pop” Popovich chose to rest his veteran players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Additionally he gave the night off to the player leading his minutes charts – Danny Greene. Unfortunately for Pop, he chose the wrong night.

The night the Spurs were playing (on national television) in Miami. It didn’t matter that the so-called scrubs of the San Antonio roster nearly pulled off the win. Stern came down hard – a quarter of a million hard.

Their are arguments that can be made for the fine. From the fans’ perspective, especially those who paid good money for tickets, they probably did not want to watch a starting line up of Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills. For the TV network that chose this game to air nationally, this meant they took a hit commercially. All in all, teams resting players in such a manner is a loss to the league commercially. However, the fact that the fine can be argued for should not take away from the fact that it is still not justified.

MIAMI, FL – NOVEMBER 29: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat shakes hands with San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich during a game at American Airlines Arena on November 29, 2012 in Miami, Florida.

Resting players is not something new in the NBA. In fact, Coach Pop rested his senior players several times in the last couple of season. Playoff-bound teams have always rested star players toward the end of the season. Lottery bound teams rest stars near the end of the season to better their chances. If anything, the latter is the worst offence, since there, the intention is to lessen the chances of them winning games. So does this fine to the San Antonio Spurs mean that Stern will punish all such offenders? The short answer is probably a ‘no’ and Adrian Wojnarowski has a theory as to why.

Conspiracy theories regarding an enmity with the Spurs franchise notwithstanding, unfairness is not the only reason why this decision stinks. Coach Pop rested his stars because in his opinion, they needed the break to continue winning later in the season. That is, his decision was in the best interest of the team as far as the season was concerned. What if he played his stars despite knowing it would have a detrimental effect on them. Doesn’t that go against his teams’ best interests? Isn’t that sabotaging his own teams’ chances? Isn’t that a worse offence? These are questions David Stern will never answer, even if the fans he claims to defend with this decision ask him the same.

All said and done, the biggest problem with the fine is the can of worms this opens. What becomes a valid reason to rest a player? Can a player with a mild cold sit out? After all, Michael Jordan dropped 38 points when he had the flu. What if a team played their starters for just a couple of minutes and rested them for the rest of the game? After all, it is the coach’s discretion in deciding on players’ minutes. Will it be alright for a player to twist an ankle, walk off for the night, only to return the next game hale and healthy? Will it be alright for a player to feign an injury?

The ambiguity the above questions pose, is exactly why this decision to fine the Spurs is a blunder. There is no way anybody can decide objectively, when and how to fine a team for ‘resting’ players. There is no way this fine can be applied uniformly across the league. There is no way that Pop’s decision to rest his players was detrimental to his team, his franchise and its fans. Logically, unless Wojnarowski’s theory is correct, there is absolutely no way the NBA could fine the Spurs. Unfortunately for the Spurs and the NBA, Stern has never seemed to be a big fan of logic.

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