DALLAS — Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said commissioner David Stern was right to fine the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 — if not more — for sending their star players home prior to Thursday night’s nationally televised game on TNT against the defending champion Miami Heat.
Cuban said protecting the league’s network partners is a top priority because those contracts are “the money train, period, end of story, no questions asked.”
He said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow if he had chosen a game not on national television to rest starters Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and key role player Danny Green.
“If he would have done the same thing the next night, it’d be a completely different conversation,” Cuban said. “Common sense. Recognize who pays your check.”
“Look, I respect the Spurs,” Cuban said. “Pop is the best coach in the league. I understand why he did it. 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.”
Popovich’s decision infuriated Stern and he had the league quickly send out a release apologizing to fans. In announcing the fine Thursday, Stern said sending the players home was a “disservice to the league and our fans.”
But Cuban also slapped the league for scheduling a marquee television game with the Spurs wrapping up a six-game, 10-day road trip and playing a fourth game in five nights. The Heat were coming off four consecutive days without a game.
“It’s just as stupid to put a team in their fourth game in five nights on national television,” Cuban said. “That’s just as dumb. You’re not going to get as good of a performance, and that’s what you want to show. So I guess you can make the counter-argument that even though the Spurs did what they did. The league was just as guilty for putting them in that position, which was pretty stupid.”
Cuban, who has been fined more than a million dollars during his 13-year ownership, said he might have even done the same as Popovich under the circumstances, but said he would expect to be fined.
He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the league had discussions about implementing firm rules about resting players.
For Cuban it’s pretty simple: No rest on national TV.
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t do the same thing if coach (Rick Carlisle) came to me and said we should rest these guys, but I’d willingly pay the fine knowing what’s at stake,” Cuban said. “Rest your starters for the long haul? One game earlier, one game later? Sure. Rest them when you’ve got our biggest customer at stake, that’s a whole different animal.
“I’m not saying the Mavs would do the same thing, but I’d realize it’s a fineable offense and for me, it’d probably be 10 times as much.”