What is the responsibility of a coach in professional sports? Is it to try to win every game? Is it to make sure the fans in the seats are entertained? Should he be focused on the television audience, perhaps? Maybe I am unusual in this, but I feel that the job of the coach is to win a championship. It appears that David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, feels otherwise. On Friday, Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to not play four of his star players in a game against Miami on Thursday. This was a terrible decision by the commissioner.
Popovich had very legitimate reasons for sending Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Danny Green home rather than taking them to Miami with the rest of the team. The Spurs were scheduled to play their fourth road game in five days, which is a rough schedule for anyone. All of those players other than Green are over 30, with Duncan and Ginoboli actually over 35. The Spurs were also scheduled to play against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday. The Grizzlies, a division foe for the Spurs, had the best record in the league at the time. Popovich clearly made a value judgment and decided that the game against Memphis was far more important than the game against the Heat, and he acted accordingly. I know that the fans who bought tickets in Miami were presented with a product that was not quite what they expected, and the national television audience may well have been smaller than it might have been otherwise, but to fine the team for this decision is ludicrous. First, the shorthanded Spurs nearly beat the Heat anyway, leading the game with less than a minute remaining before falling, 105-100. It’s not like they forfeited the game or failed to show up. Second, they accomplished their goal and defeated the Grizzlies on Saturday in overtime. Would those players have had the stamina to outlast their division rivals if they had played on Thursday? There is no way to know, of course, but it seems reasonable to at least consider the possibility that they would have worn down before then.
If the Spurs had beaten the Heat, would David Stern have issued the fine? How about if he had rested three of the four instead of all of them? Two of the four? What exactly is the rule here? This fine is so completely arbitrary, I hope that the team refuses to pay it. Gregg Popovich has won four championships as coach of the Spurs, winning 68% of his games in the process. He has rested star players before, in similar situations and for similar reasons. There has never before been a fine levied. Was it because the game was on national television? Was it because they were playing LeBron James and the Heat? There is no way to know, really, as Stern gave no real explanation for the fine, other than to say that the team “did a disservice to the league and our fans.” What a joke. There is no way to measure the actual benefit the Spurs might have gotten from this action, but it is outrageous to fine them for a move that was clearly intended to help the team win the big prize. There was nothing malicious here, nor was their anything brand new about it. Unless Stern can show a specific rule that was broken, the Spurs have a responsibility to stand up to this sort of capricious punishment.
Bad sports, continued:
2) This was a bad week for athletes who use Adderall when they are not supposed to. Eric Wright, a cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was suspended for four games after testing positive for the drug back in the summer. Later, Philadelpia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was hit with a 25-game suspension for the same offense (in a different sport, of course).
3) New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott apparently thinks that the opinions of the fans mean nothing if they did not play professional football. Way to endear yourself to the people, Bart.
4) A fight broke out during the Celtics-Nets game on Wednesday night between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries. Both players were ejected from the game, and Rondo ended up getting an additional two-game suspension.
5) Several women claiming to be the girlfriend of slain boxer Hector Camacho fought with each other at a viewing on Tuesday. What a circus.
6) How awful is college football’s bowl system? Georgia Tech, who is 6-7 on the season, was granted a waiver on Thursday that will allow them to play in a bowl despite the losing record. What exactly does it mean to play in a bowl if a team that has lost more games than it has won is eligible?
7) Jovan Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, killed his girlfriend on Saturday morning and then drove to the team’s facilities and killed himself. The couple had a three-month old baby.
8) A 22-year-old man who was attending the ACC Championship Game between Florida State and Georgia Tech fell 40 feet from a walkway and is in critical condition.
1) The New York Jets finally benched quarterback Mark Sanchez on Sunday, inserting Greg McElroy about ten minutes into the second half of the team’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. Sanchez has been atrocious this season, so it was about time. The real genius was doing this on a week when backup quarterback Tim Tebow was inactive due to injury, thus avoiding the circus that putting him in would have caused.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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