When I made my predictions for the 2012/13 NBA season, I anticipated the Spurs and Heat meeting in next June's NBA Finals. Given how far off the rails many of my other predictions have already gone, I don't expect that one to pan out either, but the two teams are off to good enough starts that it's still a real possibility. As such, last night's Spurs/Heat game in Miami had the chance to be a Finals preview.
Well, except for the fact that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green weren't in the building, having been sent home by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich earlier in the day. The Spurs still managed to make things interesting, holding a lead late in the game, but the Heat eventually closed out a 105-100 victory.
Reactions around the league to Popovich's decision have been divided, with some defending his decision to rest his stars during a stretch when the Spurs were required to play four road games in five nights.
"I don’t think Pop was in the wrong," said LeBron James. "It’s not in the rules to tell you that you can’t not send your guys here or send your guys home. But the commissioner will make his decision and everybody else will deal with it."
Indeed, NBA commissioner David Stern took exception to Popovich's approach, releasing an official statement prior to the game to express his displeasure: "I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel agreed with Stern, arguing that Popovich was thumbing his nose at paying fans and TNT, each of whom support the NBA and help "pay all the ridiculous salaries." On the other hand, as LeBron pointed out, there's certainly no rule that says the league has the right to step in and tell a coach how to manage his team — Popovich rested his starters on multiple occasions last season, and the NBA didn't say anything about it.
Where do you fall on this issue? Do you mind Popovich sending healthy players home?