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Volume 24 No. 112


The NBA plans to make the Spurs "pay for resting four stars" in Thursday's 105-100 loss to the Heat, according to the AP. The decision by coach Greg Popovich "irked NBA Commissioner David Stern." Stern said, "I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming." Stern's statement was released "roughly the same time as tip-off in Miami for the nationally televised game" on TNT. Popovich before the game said that he "decided to sit his core," including C Tim Duncan, Gs Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, when he "saw how challenging this particular part of the schedule was for his team." Thursday's matchup "ended a six-games-in-nine-nights swing for the Spurs, who won their first five on the trip." Popovich before the game said, "Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing. ... If I was taking my 6-year-old son or daughter to the game, I'd want him or her to see everybody. And if they weren't there, I'd be disappointed. So I understand that perspective. Hopefully, people in that position will understand my perspective, what my priority is -- the basketball team and what's best for it" (AP, 10/29). In San Antonio, Jeff McDonald wrote "fans were furious" at Popovich’s decision to rest four of his top five scorers for such a high-profile game. Basketball purists "took to Twitter to express dismay." Stern was "no doubt discouraged about what Popovich’s lineup decisions might do to TNT’s television ratings" It is a move Popovich "has made before, including three times during the lockout-compressed 2011-12 season, without drawing the attention of the league office" (, 11/29).

A WEIGHTY DECISION:'s Brian Windhorst wrote, "The NBA's most powerful man and its most respected and iron-willed coach plunged into an unexpected battle of wills Thursday over a basic tenet: A coach can decide what is best for his team." The Spurs were playing their 11th road game in November, and two league sources said that the Spurs "never had been questioned in the past for Popovich's periodic decisions to rest players and not take them on the road." Popovich has "done it a handful of times dating back to the 2008-09 season but never before in November." He said that he "made the decision about Thursday night when the schedule came out in July, and it didn't matter the opponent or the interest level of the game" (, 11/29). In N.Y., Benjamin Hoffman notes the move "was not unexpected, but it was done in such a callously indifferent way that it drew a lot of attention from all the wrong places." The decision "probably irked TNT, which was televising the game." It also "undoubtedly disappointed fans in Miami who had come out to see a battle of first-place teams." But no one "seemed angrier" than Stern, whose "harsh sentiment was surprising because Popovich's decision was hardly without precedent" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/30). USA TODAY's Zillgitt & Amick note it "would not be the first time the league punished a team for resting players," as the Lakers were fined $25,000 for resting two starters in the final game of the '90 regular season (USA TODAY, 11/30).

OVER REACTION?'s Michael Wallace writes, "It's likely Stern was embarrassed at the product the Spurs put on the court before a national audience in what was supposed to be a marquee matchup between teams that could meet again in the NBA Finals." Stern "made a sympathetic figure out of an ornery coach" and his response was a "knee-jerk reaction that seemed geared toward pacifying a major television broadcasting partner more so than it was designed to deter the next coach from resting a star veteran for maintenance" (, 11/30). In San Antonio, Buck Harvey noted Stern "has never apologized for a crushing schedule." Stern "can't tell Popovich who to play and when to play them, anymore than he can dictate minutes." But Thursday was "different for Stern. This was TNT" (, 11/29).'s Chris Tomasson writes Popovich's actions "were excessive," but Stern "should have waited until at least after [the] game before revealing his thoughts." His "sharply worded statement made Popovich look like the more sympathetic figure in all of this, and Stern’s statement could have been tempered after it was seen how competitive the Spurs were against the Heat" (, 11/30).'s Ken Berger wrote, "Stern the lawyer committed the cardinal sin of lawyering. He went to trial with a case he couldn't win." Berger: "What section of the rulebook did Popovich violate? (None; I checked)" (, 11/29).

Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III said news that he was involved in the Univ. of Tennessee's attempts to hire ESPN's Jon Gruden as the school's football coach, which reportedly involved an ownership stake in the Browns, was "completely erroneous," according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Haslam: "I'm not involved with the University of Tennessee coaching search and our family is very happy with the ownership structure of the Browns." Meanwhile, Haslam is "excited about the debut of the series 'NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns,' which premiers Tuesday" on the Travel Channel. Haslam said, "It really is a behind-the-scenes look at an NFL team, everything from practice to meetings to conversations with coaches to time spent casually outside the building with players to travel." He added, "I haven't seen the final cut, but I think all football fans, particularly Browns fans, should find it very interesting. ... I've described it as a softer version of Hard Knocks." Cabot notes the show is produced in partnership with Dee Haslam's RIVR Media and NFL Films. Addressing his relationship with Browns CEO Joe Banner, Haslam said, "Joe is smart. He's seasoned. He's extremely competitive. He's got great experience and I think he and I will work extremely well together" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/30).

LEARNING ON THE FLY: Haslam said of his first season as Browns Owner, "I have a lot of takeaways, but I am far from an expert on the NFL. We have been involved (with the Browns) for three or four months. People are even more important in the NFL than a normal business like what we run because we don't have any hard assets. We don't own the stadium. We don't own the practice facility. So talent selection and getting the right person, whether it is quarterback, GM or coach -- that seems to be the Holy Triumvirate -- is just exceptionally important."'s Richard Deitsch asked Haslam how "hands-on an NFL owner should be on a day-to-day basis." Haslam: "I think it all depends on the definition of hands-on. ... I just believe that collective collaborative wisdom is the best way to do things. I don't think you will see us calling plays or making personnel decisions, but strategically we are going to be involved because these businesses do not run by themselves" (, 11/29).

WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S: In Akron, Nate Ulrich notes former Browns QB Bernie Kosar has "publicly expressed a desire to work for the organization." Haslam said that he is "in contact with Kosar but hasn't formally discussed hiring him." Haslam: "We have not had any talks with Bernie involving any kind of official capacity. As you know, Bernie is a Cleveland icon. He and I talk and text frequently" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/30).

The future of the Bills in Toronto Series remains "up in the air," but series Exec Dir Greg Albrecht is "confident a new deal between Rogers Media and the NFL team will get done, which will allow more games at Rogers Centre for at least two more years," according to Mike Beamish of the VANCOUVER SUN. The NFL "probably will continue to maintain a foothold in southern Ontario." As far as "stamping out the Canadian Football League with its heavy, hobnailed boot, however, a Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs is a much more likely possibility, as improbable as that sounds." Albrecht's "current challenge is to fill Rogers Centre for the Bills-Seahawks' game, knowing it falls soon after the iconic national exercise of the Grey Cup game." Rogers Media in the past "was accused of being too aggressive in its price structure for the Bills in Toronto game, and the result was a profusion of comp tickets needed to 'paper' the house." Despite the "nearness to western New York," many Bills fans were "turned off not only by high ticket pricing but by the inertia and vastness of Rogers Centre itself." Albrecht: "I know [late CFL Lions President] Bobby Ackles had some issues about the NFL coming to Canada. He was in a big flap about it in '08. No one knew what to expect. Since then, there hasn't been as much animosity about the game being played here." He added, "At the end of the day, it's not about whether you're wearing an NFL jersey or a CFL jersey, or an NHL jersey or MLS, it's about entertainment, fan integration, the fan experience and what kind of legacy you leave behind. I don't think one -- CFL or NFL -- is better than the other" (VANCOUVER SUN, 11/30).

Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino appearing on WEEI-FM Thursday said, "We're not going to get into seven, eight-year deal as we have done before. What we have ruled out is the kind of long-term, gigantic commitment to players if at all possible" (, 11/29). Lucchino on Thursday also held a Q&A session with readers on Asked if the Red Sox had a salary figure in mind, Lucchino responded, "Yes we do, but it's not for public dissemination. You can be assured that we intend to write some big checks if it helps the team in the short and long-term." Lucchino said when asked if FSG was looking to sell the team, "Absolutely not. Next question." Also, Lucchino said of the team's current sell-out streak, "The fans started this sell-out streak in 2003 and will end it. This argument over definitions is a little silly in my opinion. No matter how you slice it, we've averaged over 37,000 fans per game over the last ten years" ( 11/29).

CAJUN FLAVORS: Gayle Benson, wife of Hornets Owner Tom Benson, during a pregame TV interview Wednesday said that her "preference for new team colors would be navy blue, red and gold." An NBA spokesperson in a statement said, "The NBA has final say on Hornets colors and name change. That process has not yet taken shape. Red, navy and gold is a combination the Bensons prefer" (, 11/28).

BUCS STOP HERE? In Tampa, Tom Jones noted the Nov. 25 Falcons-Buccaneers game at Raymond James Stadium was "blacked out locally." The Bucs held a four-game winning streak leading into the contest, and "you can't help but wonder: If fans in Tampa Bay aren't going to go to that game, which games will they go to?" The Bucs through six home games are averaging 54,057 fans, the "fewest in the NFL." They are playing to 82.3% capacity, "second worst in the league, ahead of only" the Dolphins. The Bucs before the season reduced prices on 80% of their general admission tickets, and "introduced 12-month payment plans and half-season passes." They also offered "fan-friendly wrinkles such as free Wi-Fi and enhanced instant replays." Jones: "The excuses are plenty. The economy is bad. No one is from here. It's better to stay home and watch the games on big-screen HD televisions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 11/29).