Resting Stars: Spurs Play Their Game

HANG TIME MIDWEST BUREAU — With his Spurs facing three games in three nights on a West Coast road trip this week — at Golden State, at the L.A. Lakers, at Sacramento — San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has an opportunity to get creative again with his roster deployment. However he decides to play it — or whoever he decides not to play —  is evidently perfectly acceptable to the league.

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said Friday that the Spurs would face no fines, suspensions or other reprisals for Popovich’s decision last week to withhold the services of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker from San Antonio’s game at Utah.

“I think this is a unique season,” Silver said. “And the fans understand that competitive strategy is part of what goes into coaching this year. It’s unique and teams like the San Antonio Spurs are playing to win a championship, and I think fans understand that.”

Popovich said he picked that game “pretty much when the schedule came out” and didn’t even have them travel with the club to Salt Lake City. The league was fine with that, Silver said.

“The strategic resting of particular players on particular nights is within the discretion of the teams. And Gregg Popovich in particular is probably the last coach that I would second-guess.”

For the record, the Spurs have held Duncan, Ginobili and Parker out of the same game seven times in their 10 seasons together; their record is 0-7, with a losing margin of 15 points. Last week’s loss at Utah was closer — the Jazz trailed by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter — but Popovich also did it at Portland Feb. 21 and his team got trounced 137-97.

The collective shrug at NBA HQ seems a little surprising, considering the response the Lakers got a couple decades ago when Pat Riley sat out Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Mychal Thompson for the final game of the 1989-90 season. L.A. got destroyed by 42 points that night at Portland and the league fined the Lakers $25,000. Even their owner, Jerry Buss, was quoted at the time: “Our fans would have been disappointed if the same thing happened here.”

Utah forward Paul Millsap felt insulted, calling the move “a slap in the face” and citing it as “a little motivation that … got us through.”

Popovich said he was just doing right by the Spurs, in reaction to the frantic post-lockout schedule. “However you want to look at it, 13 games in 18 days, or 16 games in 23 days or ending the season four in five nights, it’s just crazy,” he said that night. “So I’ve got to do something about it.”

But that?


  1. B3 says:

    Gregg Popovich could care less about what fans think about his coaching philosophy. He doesn’t even care about Coach of the Month/Year honors nor does he care about the stupid winning streak they had at the time. The only time he would care about a winning streak is if it was in the playoffs of his team was under .500. He doesn’t care about a stupid game in April against an under-acheiving team who has unappreciative fans. Utah should have been happy about getting a win against a team that has a better second unit than their starting-five. His goal is to win a championship and he is going to strive for that goal no matter what anyone thinks of his strategy to do so.

  2. Mike says:

    Whenever I get tempted into doubting Gregg Popovich’s decision-making, I just remind myself of this: “He’s Gregg Popovich”

  3. Krob( Spurs fan) says:

    It would be nice to see a fith banner raised…let Pop do what he do

  4. spursadam7 says:

    If this is Aschburner’s argument, then the league should have fined Mike Brown for benching Kobe/Bynum during those games he did this season. A fan obviously doesnt pay money to see star players get benched for insubordination, right? (Hint of sarcasm)

  5. Pfft says:

    Those who don’t get what the Spurs are trying to do just don’t get what competitive coaching is all about.

  6. bas says:

    popovich is not there to satisfy fans. he’s there to win. that’s what keeps him his job.
    if the spurs loose, don’t get to the playoffs, but the stars played every game.
    he will get fired. can he then say “you can’t fire me, i’ve let the stars play” ???

    the NBA is a competition. anybody who can’t deal with that such just leave.

  7. D says:

    I remember back in 1995 when Houston put Hakeem on the “injured list” for the last few games of the regular season. As a Spurs fan that watched the Rockets beat us in the WCF, I was upset about it. Not so much that he rested, but that they came up with some ridiculous reason to put him on the injured list instead of telling the truth. Was it against the rules back then to not play them for no reason?

  8. duro says:

    @Michael (sorry but my “reply” button doesn’t work for some reason): I subscribe what you wrote.

    And more: What about Popovich officially declaring Duncan out of a game because “old”? Isn’t that a masterful demonstration of wit?
    The more I see him, the more I think Popovich is the greatest coach of this era (I know Jackson won more rings but, although I admire him, I think he achieved it with far more resources).

    Back to topic: I think this blog is started out of a non-existent, artificially made up issue.

    • Michael says:

      I think there’s a lot of wit in the Spurs locker room. Pop, Timmy and Tony have all cracked me up at times.

      Jackson did get to coach a lot of talent on big-market teams with very deep pockets. But Pop and the Spurs were also blessed with Robinson and Duncan for their first two championships. Parker and Ginobili may end up in the Hall one day, too. In the playoffs, Jackson’s record against Pop is 4-2. So, if it weren’t for the Spurs, the Lakers may have won another two rings. And the Spurs have a few more if it weren’t for PJax, Shaq and Koke.

  9. Michael says:

    NBA HQ is obviously smarter these days than they were in 1989-90. If they started dishing out fines for resting players, the teams would simply avoid them by listing their stars as injured whenever necessary. How many times do we see “flu-like symptoms”, “back spasms”, and “migraine” on the box scores? Does the NBA require an independent doctor’s certificate to verify these conditions? Let the coaches coach. Resting stars is a non-issue.

    The Spurs are on autopilot every regular season and they are the winning-est team in the last decade in ANY sport. For them, it’s all about the playoffs.

  10. mike says:

    I dont understand at what point it is any of nba business if a team decides to sit certain players. how can they get fined for that?
    the players are the teams “property” so to speak and if they want to rest them, so be it. if teams can get fined for that, shouldnt EVERY single player on a team play every night? dont get it…really stupid

    • justplayball says:

      … neither….If it was the flash franchises it would be heralded as a gret, smart move by the coach…..just sayin

  11. Boston4Life says:

    Wait. Why would they fine a guy $25000 just for keeping 3 players out of a game?

  12. John says:

    Fines? Seriously? The NBA can actually give fines for resting stars? And this is all because it will displease the fans (not the real fans who actually watch and follow basketball), who will as a consequence buy less tickets. To see that the NBA has a power to fine teams for this disgustingly shows that all the NBA cares about is making a profit. Dear NBA, shouldn’t you be a league that allows teams to use whatever strategy is best in order for them to win? The one and ultimate goal of an NBA team is to win the championship. And therefore NBA, by having this power, you’re declaring that you don’t want a team to do it’s best, you just want them to bring in as many fans as possible. Plus, if the team that rests the starters wins, then why the heck does the NBA or any real basketball fan care if they played? They won anyway! If the team loses, it’s a win for the other team and they should be happy! In addition to this NBA power, reading what Scott Brooks and Paul Millsap say about this is just sad.

  13. POCOCOPS says:

    All these comments have far more sense in them than the blog. Has he got friends in high places in certain franchises? In england a footy team will rest their WHOLE TEAM for some games, ie FA cup games or even league games when there’s a big cup game coming up

    • spur4life says:

      true. but even in england there were some teams complaining about the “big-four” (or big-five or six now) are not taking their opponents for serious and making fun of them even though they got a better chance of beating the big teams… the blogg is nonsense and the blogger is steve aschburner, a spurs hater.

  14. Wes says:

    I am not interested in the fines. I would rather see them forfeit a game to the other teams in playoff contention. What happened to the competitive balance that was so important during the CBA lockout???

  15. Nate says:

    @Justplayball, how you going to tell people to keep their comments about the spurs to themselves and yet refer to the Lakers as Fakers? You’re not a real Spurs fan, just a Laker Hater. You spurs fan seem to think that there’s a big conspiracy going on to keep the spurs down lmbo. Really? Somehow they manage to win 4 championships and are among the teams with best records. Seriously, stop this stupidity before it spreads.

    • justplayball says:

      ….give me a bread Nate……MANY call them the fakers….(where are the lakes)… I’ve seen this type of diatribe for decades… and usually for the same reasons—- ratings-(surely you have read those articles spring up already) and star appeal….. I’m not a ‘laker hater’ just a laker management(draft pick trades) ‘disliker….I hate no one or any team. Till TimD and David teamed up the spurs were ‘soft’ … then when they could play defense against a brick wall (S.O.) then they were boring now its ‘they are taking away the entertainment value of certain fans who attend games upon occasion…… .and ‘before it spreads????? ru kidding ?? Please wait till the playoffs to judge what pop does……. AND just for your own edification…. Just watched the Spurs DESTROY the Suns last Saturday night (Driving over 100 miles–one way– to see a game at the end of the season with the late start time so ESPN could put them on LATE –8:00pm cst….have you ever done that for a sporting event??? lakerfan???…….don’t insult when you have NO FACTS)…. oh and btw I was really pissed when their “coach” held out SNash and GHill for the WHOLE 2nd half without any injuries —— just kidding …..wouldn’t have made ANY difference and their coach knew that and made the prudent decision…. save them for the games that they might get into the playoffs against

    • justplayball says:

      …..that’s “The Best” record in the last 10yrs, btw.

    • justplayball says:

      ….since 2000 (inclusive) Spurs average 57.25 games per regular season… and Yes they bowed out none too gracefully the last 3 years…especially last year…………But I know they Will be in the hunt every year present management is in place…. PS: That is why the reply button is there … for fans to reply….Sorry!!….. and besides…aren’t we commenting about the article by Steve A……. that is who I was referring to(the hater comment) btw Hope it is a good game tonight at the Big Waffle Iron!! even without the Kobester

      • i thought the hater was towards me my bad, but you got to admit the go play with your balls was a good one, man i like tim duncan and the spurs when tim was young, hes the best pf of all time and the 5th best player in league history to me, better then kobe and shaq in his generation my opioin, but the spurs in the playoffs have done nothin since 07 when they won it all, i love the pacers because iam from indianapolis but they are not my favorite team there up and coming and are making some nosie so i got to love that, kobe is my favorite player but i don’t think hes the best, i just think hes the most complete offensive player in the league he used to play defense but hes older now so just offense and yes i like lebron james hes a beast but hes not the mvp to me they have lost to many games to good playoff teams since the allstar break an mvp finds a way to win games agianst other good games, i judge players on how well the perform at every level of the game form regular season to playoffs to finals how they rasie there game like dirk last year and i think the mvp race is closer then ever and alot of players deserve it but iam about who the finals mvp is because thats what matters most

  16. nasus says:

    Does anyone know what Steve Aschburner’s real agenda on this issue is? Is it even an issue, or is he just trying to make it one? Every ticket purchaser knows that on any given night there is NO guarantee about which players will be on the court — injuries, illness, disciplinary actions, personal reasons are all valid and completley understood reasons for not having a squad at full strength come game time. Why is the coach’s decision to manage his players and provide strategy for the season invalid? And after 16 years, Aschburner has just noticed that Pop has ALWAYS very carefully and precisely managed his players for the ultimate good of the team?? Can Steve really be THAT slow a learner??

    The fact that Aschburner’s only support for his position comes from a league ruling from 23 years ago pretty much addresses the weakness of his position in today’s NBA – as does the fact that he’s the ONLY one talking about this despite his efforts to incite. And the perjorative verbiage (‘opportunity to get creative again with his roster deployment. . . is evidently perfectly acceptable to the league. . . withhold the services’) is just pouting – over WHAT, we really don’t know.

    The fact is, fans buy tickets to watch good ball — and yes, they’d like to be in the same building with the Kobe’s and the Le’Bron’s and say they saw them in person – but the San Antonio players have barely been recognized for their skills, much less their sparkle. I’m pretty sure the Utah fans entertainment expectations were adequately provided for by the win over the #3 team in the league —

  17. justplayball says:

    @A**burner….. If you can actually remember , the blazers didn’t/don’t have any love lost for the fakers and could not have cared less if magicman,someone elses #1 pick and M. Thonpson did’nt play……besides Thompson was in NO WAY a ‘star’ caliber player…. that’s why he played with several teams as a serviceable Journeyman, not a star in anyone heads except fakerfans and YOU obviously!!…… what a joke…….btw, STEVE……. how did it work out for the fakers that year ??? do you remember…..swept by the Pistons who grounded ‘Showeytime” for good!! And that had NOTHING to do with the Last regular season game…… all this talk about what fans want to see….what kind of fans?? …..conference leading bandwagoners-stargazers-sportscenter/highlight addicts ?? …..REAL fans want to see THEIR home team whoopup on Whoever the opposing coach wants to put on the floor, plain and simple……. as to those OTHER kind of fans? ….. who gives a rat’s behind anyway!! They can go and watch a Hollywood movie ‘staring’ shazaam as Shackiepoo!!! lol

  18. wehhh says:

    i dont see why anyone should be complaining at all in this instance

    1. spurs were prepping for their schedule (they had a back to back against the lakers and memphis, then the suns, then a back to back to back following. which this is considered to be a tough stretch of games

    2. the jazz shouldnt complain as an easy opportunity arises for them to get a seed in the playoffs. if they make the playoffs, i think this game stands out as the reason why they were able to beat out phoenix and/or denver.

    3. the spurs arent a big market team. fans dont flock to their home games because the spurs are visiting. this wasnt a slap in the face to the fans mainly because the fans really dont care (at least about the stars on this team).
    even then, they were witnesses to the deepest bench in the league managed with the best coach in the league and got an exciting game out of it (i think the jazz were blown out by 14 the night before in san antonio with the starters)

    4. if thespurs starters had played, it would have probably been around 15 minutes or less considering the following games against the lakers and grizzlies (which were both clicking at the time)

    5. boston withheld their “big three” about a week after this and nothing was said.

    i think this game was a good scenario for most
    spurs got rest they wanted , jazz got closer to the playoffs like they want, fans got an exciting game that they paid for and wanted. (no complaints were made by the fans…which was the scenario that many thought would happen but…didnt.)

    • D says:

      I almost went to the game in SLC, as a Spurs fanatic. I support Popovich but it would have been a waste of money if I had gone to my first game of the season and not seen my three favorite players. I guess I dodged the bullet that time. I’m hoping to see the Jazz get the eighth seed so maybe I can see a playoff game when the Spurs come to town.

  19. Markus says:

    The problem occurs because the NBA is an entertainment business and a star driven league. A lot of people buy tickets and show up at games especially to see those stars, Especially for bad teams where a lot of people show up to see the stars from the other teams. So it’s a problem if people start sitting out their superstars when they go to “small market” cities… but It’s very understandable this year with the crazy schedule that they have.

  20. Steven says:

    Steve Aschburner is having a hard time letter this go. I really don’t see what the big deal is. I really doubt any Utah fans wanted to watch SA’s big three more than they wanted to watch their own team win. Any San Antonio fan should be fine with it too. If the Spurs make a deep playoff run one sacrificed game is more than worth it.

  21. justplayball says:

    …… NOW ……you can’t say you didn’t get the ‘memo’ from the league office !! …..A**burner……… So just live with it , OK? and keep your spur hatin’ comments to yourself…..thanks.

    • hater then keep your comments off my reply hater the spurs haven’t done nothin in the playoffs since like 07? but one and dones

      • justplayball says:

        …Hey Kev…so what are YOU … a pacers fan?….. and you are talkin’ trash?? oh, wait a minute maybe a highlights fan(kobeslebron) type…. whatever, your just jealous like most losers….. grow up and support a team ….win or lose…personally I love the pacers and nets too ya know the only aba teams to get in because of that boston jerk. do if you are a Pacers fan I say go Pacers love to see you in the finals…. and George Hill!! PS: As for playing with someone else’s ‘balls’ …. I’ll leave that to Jason Terry–he’s good at that!! … thank you very much!!

      • justplayball says:

        …see reply @Nate……

      • spur4life says:

        06/07: world champions
        07/08: conference finals
        08/09: first-round loss to dallas(the first time lost in the first round since 99/00)
        09/10: second-round loss to phoenix (struggled with a lot of injuries)
        10/11: first-round loss to memphis
        the only time the spurs really played bad was the second-round loss to phoenix. the other losses they just got outplayed. do you even watch basketball? stop hatin’…

  22. the spurs did the same thing last year had like 60 wins and lost in the first round, the spurs need to step their game up in the playoffs because they have done nothing in the playoffs in awhile

  23. pravdo says:

    But that? What would you have him do–run his guys into the ground for the sake of “integrity of the game”–HA! What you should be asking is how come the Spurs have a brutal schedule to end the season while the marquee teams like the Lakers have something like 5 games in two weeks and their b2b2b was the first three games of the season while the Spurs have two sets in the last month of the season–where’s the integrity of the game there?

    • justplayball says:

      ….you noticed that as well……. just business as usual…… after watching for 35yrs now you just get used to the schedule makers bias….. for instance in years past when it came to Xmas games the Spurs would always head out to la la land so the fakers don’t travel during holidays…. just sayin

    • spur4life says:

      you’re absolutely right. what coach pop is doing isn’t manipulating anything but the health of his own team. he wants to make sure the players are fresh comes playoff time and they don’t get injured. how can anyone (steve aschburner) call that a manipulation?
      even if pop tries to get a lower seed look at the outcome: the spurs are a half game above the thunder in first place. what do you want pop to do? send the big three from game to game to game so they get tired and the spurs get a lower seed and loose early in the playoffs because pop didn’t took care? that would be manipulating. and as a fan i’m glad pop rests them even if that means i can’t watch my favourite players every night. because i’m a SPURS fan and the spurs are more than only three players.
      by the way it’s the second time that aschburner tries to attack the spurs and pop in a blogg because of resting players. smh…

  24. duro says:

    Strategy is part – a big part, I’d say – of a coach’s work. Besides, coaches have to make do with whatever they face, be it a good/bad roster or an easy/frantic schedule. Instead of fining Popovich, NBA should award him COY for achieving such great ranking despite an absurd schedule and a not-so-young roster. Otherwise, let’s have the players coach themselves – like some temas actually do – and make without coaches.

  25. Baller says:

    Every team does things like that. Miami did not let the Big Three play in Toronto in the last game of the 2010-2011 season, because they already had the 2nd seed clinched. With Manu being hurt this season and Timmy being as old as he is, they aren’t even playing as much minutes as they probably could. And letting TP9 at home too with an eye on the Laker visit the next day was just a logical move to me. Utah should be glad to get to play an undermanned Spurs Team and get a win out of it.

    If the league comes out and tells coaches when to play players and even how many minutes they should play it diminishes not only the game but it gives older veteran teams disadvantages and therefore I wouldn’t speak for it. The Fans will be disappointed of course, but that’s the way it is. Rubio was a joy to watch until he went down with a torn acl, fans have to live with these things too.

    And Memphis last year lost their last 2 games and dropped to the 8th seed to face the spurs in the First Round of the playoffs. Where were these articles then, that was more manipulating than what the Spurs did…