This debate seems to come up every time San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wants to rest his starters: is it a smart move or not? Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker all stayed home in San Antonio last night to rest as the rest of the Spurs took on the Utah Jazz, putting their 11-game win streak in serious jeopardy.
While the Spurs fought hard, and were even close to winning the game, the Jazz pulled it out in the end. Now the Spurs are a game behind the Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference, after “throwing away” a game they conceivably could have won with the “Big 3.”
The guys of ESPN’s First Take debated Pop’s decision. Skip Bayless (who I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with once) said it was a bad decision to let this game go and it “feeds the perception that this team is too old.” He says there was a way for the starters to play some reduced minutes and still get enough rest and get the job done. Jalen Rose seemed to side with Pop, but said as a fan of the game, he didn’t like it.
Check out the video.
I really hate when this debate comes up. All I want to do is shout at these guys, “Gregg Popovich knows what he’s doing!” The Spurs are old, they need the rest. Manu has had some injury problems. Pop is playing for a championship. He’s not playing for win streaks, or to entertain the fans and maybe not even for the top seed in the West. Pop is doing what he thinks is best to put his team in position to win a title, bottom line.
So I hope Spurs and their fans can brush off what Skip Bayless says about them, or Paul Millsap being insulted that he didn’t get the Spurs’ best effort. If the Spurs won every game for the rest of the season, got the number one seed and then lost somewhere in the playoffs because they were burnt out, no one would care that they had the best record, that doesn’t mean anything. But if the Spurs want to throw away a game here and there so they can be well rested for a strong postseason run, then they should. No one is going to look back on this lockout-shortened season and remember what effort the Spurs put in on a day-to-day regular season basis, what they’ll remember is the champion.
So everyone doubting coach Pop needs to take a step back, remember that he’s in charge, and respect him for the 4-time title winning coach that he is.