Posted December 05, 2012

Stern says $250,000 fine for Spurs was ‘not about a coaching decision’

Ben Golliver, David Stern, Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
(Elsa/Getty Images)

David Stern isn’t backing down from his decision to fine the Spurs. (Elsa/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

Even with criticism coming from all corners over the last week, NBA commissioner David Stern stood by his decision to fine the Spurs $250,000 after coach Gregg Popovich elected to strategically rest four key players during a nationally-televised game last Thursday.

Speaking to the New Orleans Times-Picayune this week, Stern said that the decision was nothing personal against Popovich and that his authority to issue a fine, which has been questioned, derived from his ability to exercise “discretion” amid the situation’s extreme circumstances.

Stern said they had a big discussion at the NBA’s Board of Governors in April 2010 about sitting out players in a manner contrary to the best interests of NBA. Stern said he told owners he would maintain the responsibility of addressing the situation with the ability to levy fines to teams if they violated the policy.

“The organization agreed they would take away four players, including a 26-year-old and a 30-year-old — their four best players,’’ said Stern, who will be attending Wednesday night’s game between the Hornets-Lakers at the New Orleans Arena. “And they did it without notifying the league or the media the way they’re supposed to for injury and illness. That, and the totality of all the circumstances, if this wasn’t the appropriate time for exercising the discretion then there would never be an appropriate time. This is not about the coach, I’m fine with Pop.’’

“This is not about a coaching decision,” Stern said. “This is more about the relationship among our 30 teams and 30 owners.”

Following those April 2010 meetings, Stern said, according to the Associated Press, that resting players was “at the sole discretion of the team [and] the coach … unless that discretion is abused.” Deputy commissioner Adam Silver reiterated during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season that such decisions were a coach’s to make.

Stern’s statements mostly echoed the wording in the press release announcing the fine.

“The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case,” commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.”

“The Spurs’ actions were in violation of a league policy, reviewed with the NBA Board of Governors in April 2010, against resting players in a manner contrary to the best interests of the NBA,” the statement read.

Prior to tipoff between the Spurs and Heat, Stern had threatened to punish the Spurs.

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

Popovich, of course, views strategically resting players as a coaching decision.

“We’ve done this before in hopes of making a wiser decision, rather than a popular decision,” Popovich told reporters before the Heat game, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s pretty logical.”

ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy, a former NBA coach, slammed Stern while broadcasting a game last Friday, arguing that managing a roster is indeed a coaching decision.

“The league is not right,” he said. “I don’t think Gregg Popovich is wrong. … He’s trying to [rest his guys together] in one game so his team plays together as much as possible, to give himself the best chance of winning. A big part of any coach’s job is to pace your team correctly. That means how much you play them, how many minutes, how long you practice. That’s what his job is. To say he doesn’t have the right to do that [is wrong].”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers also sided with Popovich.

“You’ve got to coach your team to win in the long run and you have to do whatever you need to do,” Rivers said before a Friday game against the Blazers, according to the Associated Press. “If that’s sitting players, you sit players.”

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, however, backed Stern, according to ESPNDallas.com.

“We’re still a business. Resting the stars for the long haul one game earlier, one game later, sure. Resting when you’ve got our biggest customer at stake, that’s a whole different animal. I’m not saying the Mavs wouldn’t have done the same thing, but I realize that it’d be a fineable offense. And if it was me, it’d probably be 10 times as much.”

Stern’s statements here obscure rather than clarify the issue, at least until you read between the lines. Leading his explanation by pointing out that the Spurs rested their four best players — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green — fails to address the Spurs’ repeated practice of strategic resting in previous seasons. Pointing out that the Spurs didn’t inform the league office in advance of their decision is equally confusing; if injury reporting protocol was violated here, was it also violated in the past? Yes or no, was a simple injury reporting protocol violation worth a $250,000 fine, gigantic by NBA standards?

When Stern advances to oblique phrases like “totality of the circumstances” and “relationship among our 30 teams and 30 owners” we finally get a hint of what was really driving this fine. Of course, as Cuban said in much plainer English, the fine was really all about protecting the league’s relationship with its television partners and advertisers.

Stern announced earlier this season that he will step down as commissioner on Feb. 1, 2014.

27 comments
esgalan2
esgalan2

Stern has NO leg to stand on on this one.

 

 The "product" the NBA sell (or at least should sell) are TEAMS playing against each other,  NOT specific individuals !!

 

The Spurs fielded a team that competed, to the point they almost win the game. If a team has depth enough to rotate without damaging to the quality of play, then the Commish has Nothing to complain about.

 

For Chrisssakes, its not as if POP put the Austin Toros roster on the floor against the Heat !!!

 

BTW if I were the Spurs players I would be mightily p***ed at Stern for "apologizing" to the fans. It is all but saying to them : we don't want to see you play, you are not worthy of our notice". These guys are every bit a pro as Duncan, Parker or Ginobili.

 

 

The deep truth that is revealed by David Stern's stance, is that,  in his mind, the NBA is not a sports league were Basketball is the product anymore.

 

The "product" is making "Stars", "bankable" names that can carry endorsement deals and advertisement revenue. All the NBA promoting effort are centered on ONE goal : exalt the individual over the team.

 

LeBron James playing basketball has merely become what brackets the all important TV ads featuring LeBron selling phones or whatever.

 

Next step : brand names on the players shirts...... I can't wait to watch the Verizon-AT&T Finals in 2018.... should go to Game 7t....

marsof
marsof

omg retire already!

Whatever
Whatever

Stern, your "excuse" is completely transparent. You're mad because the Spurs didn't play their best players for their only trip to Miami and thus lessened the desire of fans to watch the game on TV or in person. That's it. All of this nonsense about "what's best for the league" is crap. What's best for the league is that the Spurs AREN'T competitive in the playoffs so a team like Miami, Chicago, LA or Boston can advance -- you know, your major TV markets. That's what you're really crying about, is that the Spurs may throw a monkey wrench into your carefully made plans for LeBron and Kobe to meet in the finals.

m.guszak
m.guszak

It is disgraceful that commissioners in professional sports have been granted these ridiculous powers. Because they sure do abuse them.

Mike26
Mike26

Do people still watch the National Body Art league much anymore?

bigsancho
bigsancho

Kobe Bryant has some advice for Pop and the Spurs whining about their long road trip:

"Put your big boy pants on!!!"

Jim C
Jim C

Maybe if the league stopped scheduling teams to play 5 games in 5 different cities in 7 days coaches wouldn't feel a need to rest players to such extremes. They play 82 games in 5 and a half months. 82 games in 23 weeks. 82 games in 161 days (roughly). Better scheduling would significantly reduce the kind of tiring trip the Spurs (and many other teams as well) had gone on. I know it can be challenging to work around other events in the venues, but it's just not necessary to do that kind of scheduling.

juniorsgv1
juniorsgv1

everyone knows he's lying. this is why i stopped watching/paying for games period. the product during the season sucks anyhow. it doesn't get good until after the all star break when you know which teams are contenders/pretenders.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Stern's time is long last. He is hurting the credibility of the NBA by insisting that he call very shot. I find him an embarrassment. He can't leave soon enough. I'd love to see the Spurs refuse to pay the fine. Take him to court. 

JulesG
JulesG

It's strange people calling David Stern a "moron"....the guy whose vision and work saved this league many years ago. But leave it up to ignorant fans to give opinions of a person based on knee jerk reactions and mis-guided emotions. He may not be the most likeable person, but he is a genius when it comes to business acumen, and we may not even have an NBA if it wasn't for this man...just sayin.

DarrenZancan
DarrenZancan

David Stern, this isn't about the Spurs, this is about your massive ego!

GeorgeMolnar
GeorgeMolnar

"a $250,000 fine, gigantic by NBA standards?"

 

Gigantic?

 

The Spurs player salary is over $72 Million.

 

Fining them $250K is like fining someone who makes $70,000 a year about $250 - one venti latte a week

mharris672
mharris672

It was a great game.  I watched it, and enjoyed it.  Stern & puppet committee need to shut-up and enjoy the game, unless specific 'rules' were violated.

mharris672
mharris672

Idiot = IQ below 20 = Stern

Imbecile = IQ of 20 to 49 = those who support Stern

Moron = IQ of 50 to 69

Borderline Deficiency = IQ of 70 to 79

Dull = IQ of 80 to 89

craig1
craig1

The fact that Stern is a huge moron, and an unpleasant distraction for the league, is supported as well by the totality of the facts.

dt
dt

No, this fine is about Stern's big freaking head!  You think the Miami Heat fans didn't love their team beating the Spurs?

craig1
craig1

 @JulesG You can still be a moron, yet have high intelligence. He makes "moron" like decisions that do not help his league.

 

Speaking of "moronic speak", anyone who ends his rant with "just sayin", you know, the type that can't add the last letter "g" in a lame attempt to seem cool and "hip hop", is a complete moron to me.

 

Calling me ignorant and fueled towards knee jerk reactions and mis-guided emotions, is amusing.Suffice it to say I surely know more about basketball Xs and Os than you, yet have no desire to even set you straight.

 

Lastly,I am not a fan of a mugging-like sport  where traveling and ball handling is the order of the day. I am no fan. I merely commented because I think Stern's heavy handed and arrogant approach to the game is something worthy to call out.

Paul9
Paul9

 @JulesG Jules - agree with you.  Stern is far from a moron.  He's actually highly intelligent, VERY business and legal savvy - someone you wouldn't want to mess with in any type of business negotiations.  All of which contribute to my personal feelings about him - he's an egotistical, arrogant jerk, who lords his intelligence over people like he's the only person that knows anything about the subject at hand.  Which leads to him making decisions based on what he wants done, and nothing more.  If you cross him at any point, look out - he will make your life miserable - just ask Mark Cuban, the Spurs front office, any number of "edgy" players who have been targeted often.   Perfect example is the 1/4 million dollar fine on the Spurs for doing something that for years, the NBA front office not only didn't penalize, but actually said was within a coaches right.  Suddenly, because Stern views Pop's actions as a personal affront, and gets ticked off, what has for years been perfectly acceptable COACHING STRATEGY, suddenly is off limits, with some mumbo-jumbo reason as "the totality of facts" - B.S. !!!  Stern was once the best commissioner in sports - he's now simply the most arrogant, overbearing, dictatorial commissioner.   Wonder if it has anything to do with being so short in an industry of very tall men - Napolean complex maybe???!!!!!!

Mark4
Mark4

 @JulesG He's was a genius in the 80s, a passable commissioner in the 90s, and a marketing bridge troll ever since.  The player equivalent is Wizards MJ.  Some people don't know when to quit.

JasonMacBride
JasonMacBride

@JulesG he's not a moron - he is an egotistical control freak

JulesG
JulesG

 @craig1 Ok....thank you Craig1 for your monumental insight on me as a person and everything else you stated that doesn't need to be repeated. You not only told me why I used a slang phrase, but also let it be known how much it was indicative of my character...very classy and necessary! Thank you.

 

You even know that you know more about me when it comes to basketball....which is also amazing! Anything else that you already know you care to share with the World? You know how much people are drawn to people with your type of rare talent.

 

And lastly....good for you. Don't be a fan, don't watch, and maybe situations like this type of conversation with actual fans of a sport that you claim to not care about wouldn't occur....unless, you like arguing or insulting people because it's just another one of your talents. But honestly, despite all of this attempt at being sarcastic and witty, I wasn't even talking to YOU....funny how that works.

JulesG
JulesG

 @Paul9 LOL @ the complex....ironic isn't it....where his employees are on average are 6foot and taller! But I do see what you mean when I consider like examples. The way he handled the Chris Paul trade, his obvious issues with the Mavericks, and so on and so forth....he is very full of himself. But the only thing all of us can do is deal with it unfortunately.

JulesG
JulesG

 @Mark4 Great breakdown, and yes, I believe you are right. Right NOW, he is over the top with marketing dollars and control. But, I don't attribute that solely to the case with the Spurs. He makes some good points. Just like, if your manager gave you and 3 other co-workers paid vacation days in the middle of a critical time at your job, he would get the same type of backlash. Pop and the team didn't let anyone know, they just did it....and not to question why he did it, but HOW was where I saw what David was saying.

JulesG
JulesG

 @JasonMacBride  @JulesG Agreed....he is. In fact, I am not a huge fan of David Stern and believe the business aspect of his approach, and how much he tries to micro-manage the hell out of the NBA is why he needs to move on. But with all of that said, I don't want to confuse that sentiment with one that suggests the man is dumb or doesn't deserve an undying amount of credit for his contribution to the sport. It's like, you can love your parents and know their wrongs at the same time, and that is how I feel about Stern.