The NBA fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,0000 this week for sending their star players home on the last game of a road trip. The fines come after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker back to Texas, instead of having them in uniform to face LeBron James and the Heat.
The Spurs were set to play the Miami Heat on Thursday night, the sixth game of a tough eight-day road trip. With an aging veteran core, Popovich has been careful in the past to manage minutes, and in this case decided to send home his three stars, plus key reserve Danny Green, instead of having them face the reigning champs. This news drew the ire of NBA commissioner David Stern, who surely was expecting the nationally televised marquee matchup to feature two teams fielding their best possible squads. But instead, Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and Green were on a commercial flight back to San Antonio, and the Spurs reserves met the Heat's all-star lineup alone.
But a strange thing happened Thursday night - the reserves made a game of it, coming within a Ray Allen three-pointer of taking the game from the Heat. In fact, the Spurs' reserves gave the Heat stars all they could handle, and looked poised to pull off the upset before the newest Miami star Allen nailed yet another clutch 3.
No matter, said Stern, who handed down the $250k fine to the Spurs, saying in a statement:
"The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case. 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."
Stern is obviously worried about TV ratings, and the idea that fans could pay hundreds of dollars for a key game full of stars that didn't even bother to show up. But how can you force a coach to play a certain way if it's not in the best interest of his team? No word yet if the Spurs will appeal the fine.