Gregg Popovich has done this before, but this time it got the attention of the media and more importantly the commissioner of the NBA. Coach Pop sent the San Antonio Spurs' Big 3 stars in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan home along with starting guard/forward Danny Green before the Spurs faced the Miami Heat on their homecourt. There's been some praise for this move and also complaints. Spurs fans agree with their coach, he was sending his players home to rest after two sets of back to backs. The other side disagrees because they say the fans lost out on this and they're the reason why the team's are as successful as they are.
I fully agree with the decision Coach Pop made for this game. His team has endured a long away schedule so far and has to keep the best interest of his owner and of his team first. This was No. 11 in San Antonio's road game while it was Miami's 14th overall game in the season. This had to be one of the main reasons why Danny Green sat out as he's clearly been fatigued during the most recent games,e specially since he's had to score and was burdened with Kawhi Leonard's job of defending the other team's best player. Also keep in mind from the picture shown in this article that it's been the Spurs' 6th road game in nine days while the Heat have been off since Saturday.
It's not just that they were road games but also factor in where the games were. The Spurs traveled to Toronto then to Washington then to Orlando and finally to Miami. While the final two games were in the same state, it's still not an easy schedule for a team that's been short handed with injuries to their only true small forwards. The Spurs were burdened with four games in a week while the Heat played five games in two weeks. That's a lot of wear and tear for an older team. It's true the Heat have their own health problems, but they've needed their Big 3 to play to win. As we saw during the game, the Spurs are deep enough to give any team trouble and the bench gave Miami a run for their money. This game was probably better and more competitive than if the rested players actually played! That's my defense for the Pop decision.
What if Pop was wrong? Is he actually in the wrong for making the decision? If you see the comparisons of schedules between the two games, why is Pop the one to be blamed? The man was looking out for the well being of his team. A lot of NBA writers and bloggers have said that he's wrong because the fans were disappointed and robbed of an experience. They say that it's the fans that make the team and league what it is. I'll agree with that…to an extent. The NBA fans do provide and fund the league and they also make it what it is. The question to that is: what fans did Popovich rob? Was it Spurs fans who didn't have their favorites play? No.
In fact (even if they disagree with it), they understand why he did it. They understand that the team is looking forward to the playoffs, not to the regular season. You get to the playoffs and have a chance for a title if players have enough juice to keep playing at a high level. Pop didn't rob Spurs fans, but Heat fans. Does Pop owe Heat fans anything? No he doesn't. He doesn't try to win or coach the team the Heat fans cheer for (or any other team for that matter). To say Pop robbed the fans that have built his team isn't correct. If there's anyone to blame in this overblown controversy, it's the league and commissioner who now suddenly cares about the fans. The NBA makes the schedule and the league knew the Spurs were going on a ridiculous road schedule that ended in a nationally televised game. They also knew Pop's tendencies, even if they didn't think he'd actually do them.
Where was this concern by Stern when the lockout was happening? Why didn't he speak up about the congested schedule that made the games unattractive to watch fans? If he truly cared about the fans, why doesn't he speak out against high ticket prices when the league makes billions and billions in revenue?
The only reason Stern is upset is because Pop embarrassed him and exposed the disadvantage his team had. Stern is all about money, we know that from the lockout fiasco. Pop was justified by his actions. The only reason Stern is upset is because someone one upped him at his own game. The defending NBA champions and the MVP of the league playing against a tired squad with an old core? That would've been an interesting debate on networks and on the internet. If the Big 3 actually played for the Spurs, the Heat would've probably won by a large margin since they've left it all on the court during this road trip, but Pop knew better. In fact, Pop won this game because his second and third stringers gave the champs a scare and gained confidence from this game while the defending champs barely escaped while having their best players play way too many minutes (Lebron James: 39 minutes, Dwayne Wade: 32 minutes, Chris Bosh: 36 minutes).
Even if the Spurs get fined and his team lost, Pop gained a lot more with this gain than the Spurs will lose in any punishment by the league by showing what the league expected his team to go through unfairly.