Should Pop Be Punished For Resting Players?

Nov 29, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich walks on the court during a time-out during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Gregg Popovich made the headlines yesterday by deciding to send home Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green for the Miami Heat game. Popovich’s reason? The four players were tired and needed to rest. His decision has sparked heated debate around the the league, and NBA Commissioner, David Stern, released this statement:

“I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.” – David Stern

So does Popovich deserve to be punished for his decision to rest 4 key players, when the team was already without Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard? First of all, let’s examine both sides.

What Popovich decided to do can be seen as a breach of the league’s integrity. When fans purchase game tickets to see Miami Heat take on San Antonio Spurs, they expect to see stars like Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. By sending home his star players, Popovich clearly disappointed a lot of fans, which in turn puts the league in a bad light.

On the other hand, can you really punish a coach for making, what he feels is, the best decision for his team? The game against Miami was the 4th game in 5 nights for the Spurs, and the end of a 6 game road trip. Besides, the reigning champions had 5 days off, so the schedule was clearly in Miami’s favor.

It certainly seems like this is a tricky case for David Stern to set a precedent. Popovich could have easily gotten away with saying that his players had minor knocks and couldn’t play because of that. Instead he decided to be truthful about his reasoning and it might come back to bite him.

Gregg Popovich made it very clear last season, that making sure his players are well rested for the playoffs is his key objective. Spurs had a couple of double digit winning streaks on the line, during the regular season, that Pop decided to jeopardize in order to rest his stars. Playoff success is the only thing that matters to the Spurs, and while you can question Pop’s methods, you definitely can’t argue with the results he has produced in recent years.

Despite being severely short-handed, Spurs reserves gave Miami everything they could handle. This season Miami has only really been as good as their opposition, and the Spurs held a 5 point lead with 2 minutes to go in the game. After yet another impressive performance down the stretch by the LeBron-Allen combination, the Heat ran away with a 105-100 victory at home.

So should Pop and the Spurs be punished? Personally, I’d say no. Yes, it is unfair to the fans who perhaps wanted to see Tony Parker or Tim Duncan play, but there is never a guarantee that a certain player will play when you buy a game ticket. As mentioned, this is a very tricky issue to handle, because you have to implement some kind of a rule, that the league will have to follow in similar cases, and where do you draw the line?

The matter of the fact is, the Spurs almost beat the Heat, and if they did how could you possibly penalize a coach who just had his team win a game. At first, it seemed like Pop essentially threw the game away before it had even started, but the Spurs were still competitive, and I am pretty sure most fans got their money’s worth.

If the league decides to punish Popovich, which seems like the case, how severe should the punishment be, and where do you draw the line? Are you not supposed to let the coach do his job to the best of his abilities, regardless of how inconceivable his decisions are to the rest of us?


Gives us your take on the issue in the comment box down below.

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Tags: Gregg Popovich Miami Heat San Antonio Spurs

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