SBD/December 3, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Stern Calls Spurs Move A "Disservice" To The NBA; Media Debates Merit Of $250K Fine

Suspensions notwithstanding, the Spurs' fine was the sixth-largest in NBA history
NBA Commissioner David Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 on Friday for sitting C Tim Duncan and Gs Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green in last Thursday's 105-100 loss to the Heat, calling the move a "disservice to the league and our fans," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Stern in a statement said 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." Zillgitt wrote it "remains to be seen how that fine impacts the Spurs' bottom line." Spurs Owner Peter Holt during last year's lockout said that his team "would have lost money had it not made deep playoff runs in previous seasons." The incident "certainly opened a robust discussion of when -- if ever -- it is appropriate to rest players" (USATODAY.com, 12/1). Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was "disappointed" by the decision. Popovich said, "What I do from my perspective is from a coaching perspective. And I think the league operates from a business perspective. And I think that's reflective in the action that they took" (AP, 12/1). In N.Y., Howard Beck wrote the NBA's "two-paragraph statement provided no clarity on what the acceptable parameters are for resting players" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). Also in N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote a $250,000 fine "did not rise to Stern’s vow of 'substantial sanctions,' an indication that he had second thoughts or was talked out of further punishment after Popovich received much support in the news media." On top of that, the Spurs "have unfailingly represented Stern’s league well" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). In San Antonio, Mike Monroe noted, "Only five times in league history has a larger fine been levied on a team or individual." The team "isn't expected to appeal because Stern is the final arbiter of punitive action" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/30).

SEEING BOTH SIDES: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said, "I might even take the fine if it was us, but I understand why the league (fined the Spurs). It maybe should have even been higher, because the amount at stake is enormous." Cuban said the NBA's national TV contracts are its "money train," adding they are the difference in the league being profitable or not "by a long shot." Cuban: "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." Cuban added, "It's just as stupid to put a team in their fourth game in five nights on national television. That's just as dumb. You're not going to get as good of a performance, and that's what you want to show. ... The league was just as guilty for putting them in that position" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 12/1). Cuban added, "If it wasn’t a Thursday night TV game, nothing would have happened. But the league as a whole gets all of our money from TV. And you never know what the inflection point is between your customer thinking they have a good deal and a bad deal. And if someone tunes in and doesn't see the main guys playing and tunes right back out and at the end of the year, if our TV partner says, if you’d have been .002 higher, we’d have hit our marker" (DALLASNEWS.com, 12/1).

NO SIR, I DON'T LIKE IT: In Miami, David Neal wrote Stern "didn't have enough self-realization to keep from looking like a thundering old coot." The decision left Stern "looking like a tool, fool, anything but cool." Neal: "In his prime, Stern wasn't so transparent. Or, at least he did it with more panache." He "understood better what was worth making a public stink over, what was worth a private conversation with the parties involved and what was worth a shrug and 'next'" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/2). In N.Y., Sam Borden wrote Stern was "apparently unconcerned about setting a precedent." Borden wrote it "should be noted that Stern’s concern for the fans’ disappointment goes only so far." The NBA "does not offer a policy similar to that of many Broadway shows, which allow customers to get their money back if an understudy stands in" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes the fine "stunk of populist grandstanding" (N.Y. POST, 12/3). In California, Mark Whicker wrote it is "likely that the NBA is making this up as it goes along" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/2). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote it is "pretty much the opposite of what Stern has done for three decades, the method by which he became the best commissioner of all time." He "decreed the players mattered, that they were at the heart of the game and were the catalyst for its growth, popularity and singular bond with a once-antagonistically resistant audience." It is "hard to grasp why one game on a weeknight in November was worth betraying that legacy to depict your own coaches and players as a bunch of crooks" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/2). SI.com's Chris Mannix wrote the NBA by fining the Spurs "opened a Pandora's Box it can never close." Getting "sand kicked on your shoes is no reason to nuke the beach, which is what Stern did" (SI.com, 12/1).

BENEATH THE SURFACE: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote it "wasn't the act of resting players that got the Spurs fined. It was being devious and arrogant about it." Resting the players "might have been what was best for the Spurs," but it "was not best for the NBA." Sources said that the end result "could be a boost of momentum to a small but vocal movement within the league office to formalize the reporting procedure for player injuries." Something along "the lines of teams being required to declare at a specified time on each game day the injury status of their players" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/30). In San Antonio, Mike Monroe wrote, "Lost in the indignation ... is this: The role TNT network's exclusive Thursday night programming played in the brutal Spurs' schedule that led to the coach's choice." The net "paid through the nose for that TNT Thursday accommodation." What Stern "saw was a potential ratings bonanza for TNT being sabotaged" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 12/2).

STERN WARNING: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Stern "tossed a temper tantrum that left everyone around him embarrassed, humiliated and wondering why he insisted on staying until February of 2014." Wojnarowski: "Back in the Spurs' glory days, it was one disrespectful act after another out of Stern." There is a "double-standard to how this league operates under Stern, and it won't change until [Deputy Commissioner & COO] Adam Silver takes over and makes it a priority to do so." For all "of his so-called marketing genius, Stern could never sell the global appeal" of Ginobili and Parker. The NBA "failed the Spurs, far more than the Spurs ever failed the NBA." The "emperor of the NBA wasn't standing up for the fan on Thursday night, but settling an old score on his way out of office" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/30). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins wrote it was "just another irrational moment from the NBA's horrid little dictator" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/2). FOXSPORTS.com's Bill Reiter wrote, "Love him or hate him, David Stern has no intention of being anyone other than David Stern for his remaining 14 months as NBA commissioner" (FOXSPORTS.com, 12/1).

NOT STERN ENOUGH: In Orlando, Brian Schmitz wrote Stern "was right to fine the Spurs." But he "should have suspended coach Gregg Popovich for a game after the stunt he pulled" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 11/30). In Houston, Randy Harvey wrote, "The only concern I have over David Stern’s punishment of the Spurs for clearly flaunting NBA rules was that it wasn’t severe enough." A $250,000 fine "might not be considered as much deterrent by some teams" (CHRON.com, 12/1). ESPN's Jalen Rose said, "The Thursday night stage for the NBA is almost like 'Monday Night Football'" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 11/30). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said, "People need to get it out of their heads that this was just about his guys resting. ... This was a message to the league that, 'Hey, I don't like my schedule.'" SB Nation's Bomani Jones said, "Gregg Popovich chose a national showcase televised game to flip David Stern the bird and it wasn't cool because people don't come to see the Spurs. They come to see Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. People tune in on TNT to see those caliber of players" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/30). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "If I'm David Stern ... I'm trying to sell my league all across the country and Gregg Popovich prevented me from doing that and I am livid" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/30). The SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS' Monroe in a separate piece wrote a "warning has been issued to every coach: Don't even think about sitting players, no matter how tough your schedule might be" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 12/1).
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