David Stern didn't care. The game with the Miami Heat was in front of a nationally televised audience so when Popovich sent four of his starters home he was giving the fans a lesser product. To Stern, that was unacceptable. He threatened sanctions and it turns out that he wasn't faking.
The Spurs have been hit with a cool $250,000 fine. Popovich has expressed his disappointment with it, but has yet to say that he is going to appeal.
What was interesting in the whole mess was what Mark Cuban said::
“Look, I respect the Spurs,” Cuban said. “Pop is the best coach in the league. I understand why he did it. I might even take the fine if it was us, but I understand why the league [fined the Spurs]. It maybe should have even been higher, because the amount at stake is enormous.”He was reffering to the game being played in front of a national audience and the fact that it is the TV contracts that provide a lot of the revenue for the league. You don't want to bite the hand that feeds you by not putting your best foot forward when it is desired most.
Cuban, never a person to hold back what he's thinking, put some of the blame on the league for scheduling a nationally televised game on the tail end of a lengthy road trip.
It was a rather obscure and very general rule that Stern cited as what the Spurs violated. Essentially what it does is give the commissioner the ability to fine/sanction a team that he feels does something to hurt that product that the NBA is trying to put out.
So technically you can say that Popovich did just that by sitting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green for a game against the defending champions. However, sine the Spurs were competitive throughout the game did they hurt anything?
As a fan I understand what Popovich did. The Spurs have been doing great in-season the last could years, but seem to wear out at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. He's rested players before for the same reason he did hear--not to wear them down so much they get hurt.
That seems like good coaching. No one game will make the season; he needs his guys to be good for the long haul. That means resting them when he sees fit.
Like Cuban said though, when it comes to such big revenue source (the TV contracts) the business of the game has to be taken into consideration.
Hopefully Popovich will appeal and the league will consider lowering the fine. I think the rule is in place more to keep people from doing damage to the game on purpose; not something for strategic, long term purposes.
Would Stern rather the Spurs lose Tim Duncan or Tony Parker to an injury? Then these guys will miss multiple games...