Did you have the beer and soda on ice? The sandwiches made? The pizza ordered? Your favorite chair smack in front of the big screen TV?
To watch Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, Patty Mills and Nando de Colo battle the defending champion Heat?
Look, I’m a big believer in Gregg Popovich as a great coach and a down-to-earth guy. I’ve had him bark at me when he didn’t like a question. I shared a dance floor with him for a couple of really horrible versions of the tango one night in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
But Pop is flat wrong about sending home Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green ahead of the marquee game in Miami.
“We’re getting tired,” Popovich said before Wednesday night’s win at Orlando. “We’ve had a six-day trip and a 10-day trip. Usually you don’t have that in one month.”
Sorry, Pop. Tired is not an excuse. Not for every other team that has had to endure a grueling road trip or the vagaries of an often Byzantine NBA travel map. Not for the Spurs.
From a strictly Spurs-centric view of the world, it makes perfect sense to lighten the load as much as possible on the veteran Big Three that forms the core of the team’s championship hopes. That’s why it is wise to carefully manage minutes in each game of the schedule, as Popovich has successfully done over the past several years to extend Duncan’s career. If a game is safely decided one way or the other, there’s no problem with getting any veteran to the bench to save his legs for the next night in the voracious schedule.
But to simply blow off a game entirely is not acceptable. Not when fans have paid good money for tickets. Not when there might be one kid in Miami who is a Duncan or Ginobili or Parker fan and is hoping to see his hero for the first time. Not when the integrity of the game insists that you try to win. And the fact that he has done it before in resting up his team for the playoffs is no legitimate excuse either.
The Spurs would already have been playing without the injured Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. With the Fleeing Foursome hitting the road early that means San Antonio dressed just nine players to face Miami.
Pop will say his responsibility is only to the franchise that signs his checks. But the success of that franchise comes from being a part of a larger enterprise, the league.
Pop will say that his job is to worry about playing national TV games in June when everything is on the line, not on a Thursday night in November. But those national TV games pay the rent, pay the salaries of players and coaches.
Pop will say that his job is to win championships, not friends. But then the Spurs can’t continue to go around poor-mouthing their lack of respect and notoriety on the national stage.
Pop will say a lot of things that seem to make sense when viewed from a bunker behind the Alamo. But it’s just a bad dance that looks worse than his tango.