Restgate: Too Much Controversy for the NBA’s Own Good
Gregg Popovich is arguably one of the best coaches in the NBA, as well as maybe one of the smartest. He always keeps the well-being of his players in mind, often resting the older ones. He even lists these older players and not active with symptoms of being “OLD,” as a joke of course. However, this past week, he did the same thing again, but he has now incurred the wrath of David Stern. My mission in this post is to review the whole “Restgate” situation with the San Antonio Spurs and its subsequent aftermath.
To summarize what led up to this, Gregg Popovich, coach of the Spurs, sent his top four players Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, and Tim Duncan home before their game against the Miami Heat in Miami. . Popovich rationale has consistently been that he always puts his team’s well-being first and knows that it isn’t a good idea to make his star players play four games in five nights. However, the backlash from the commissioner is what really surprised me.
David Stern, who recently announced that he’ll step down midway through next season, fined the Spurs organization $250,000 for “an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.” Stern also referred to Popovich’s decision as “a disservice to the league and our fans.” However, as Harvey Araton of the New York Times wrote in yesterday’s paper, the real reason for Stern’s anger is not because of a violation of league rules, but rather because he was offended and embarrassed that Popovich would do such a thing right before a nationally televised game. Stern has always considered the contracts with nationally televised channels, like TNT and ESPN, as a kind of lifeblood of the NBA. That said, Popovich’s decision to sit his star players would decrease interest in the game in question, thereby reducing the amount of profit made by the NBA. That said, even though the Spurs ended up losing, the game was actually a nail biter as they held the lead in the final minute of the game until Ray Allen’s three put the Heat in the lead in the final seconds.
I personally think that David Stern is right for being upset at Popovich, given that he didn’t follow the requirement of notifying the League about taking out their top 4 players. However, as Howard Beck said in the New York Times, “The league’s two-paragraph statement provided no clarity on what the acceptable parameters are for resting players.” What that means is that the so-called rule that was discussed at a meeting with the Board of Governors in 2010 isn’t clear enough. That said, Popovich probably had no idea that Stern would actually have a serious problem with what he did. After all, he’s always done it, so he probably didn’t understand that he needed to let the league know before sending the players home.
What I was most surprised by by was the humongous fine levied by Stern on the Spurs – $250,000; an excessive fine, especially considering that the Spurs aren’t one of the NBA’s big-market teams that pulls in tons of cash. Even Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics, said that he didn’t agree with it. He said that he understood why Stern was upset, but he didn’t agree with the rule and was especially upset with the fine, saying that, “I don’t like it… I do get the other side of it, but it’s a tough one. You’ve got to coach your team to win in the long run.” Lord knows that the Spurs, thanks to Popovich and his philosophy of putting his players health first, have won big time in the long run.
Recently, concern has been expressed that Popovich’s chances at being the next coach of Team USA may have been jeopardized following the events of “Restgate.” due to the fact that Jerry Colangelo, GM of Team USA, is also the GM of the Toronto Raptors, which pretty much gives him a direct line to Stern and could imperil Popovich’s chances. Also, there’s a belief that, if Popovich would sit his own star players for a regular season game, what’s to say that he wouldn’t do the same on the international level? I think that both of these arguments have zero merit. I think that, at the end of the day, Colangelo should ignore this little blip in the radar, per se, and instead consider Popovich’s illustrious pedigree that already makes him the front-runner for the head coach position of Team USA.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens next in this saga and what the possible future ramifications may or may not be.