Popovich On Resting Players: ‘I Don’t Know What The Guidelines Are, Do You?’

DALLAS – One month has passed since San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich flew four key players home before a nationally televised game at Miami. It rankled commissioner David Stern so that it earned the franchise an unprecedented fine of a quarter-million bucks.

Popovich said Sunday night as the Spurs prepared to face the Dallas Mavericks that he has had no contact with the league, has no idea of any guidelines for resting players and that he’ll operate as he has and rest a player — or  players — as he sees fit.

“The league hasn’t come out with specific guidelines to follow on resting players or anything like that, so I don’t really know what the rules are,” Popovich said. “But given that we’ve been fined for it, I would assume that they’re probably thinking about it, working on it in some way, shape or form. But I haven’t had any conversations with the league on, ‘Hey, what are you doing, what’s the deal?’ I haven’t talked to anybody.”

That could make this week rather interesting. The Spurs began a stretch of four games in five nights Sunday at Dallas. Then they’ll come back home to host Brooklyn on Monday. That’s followed by a trip to Milwaukee on Wednesday and on to New York to play the Knicks on Thursday.

“If you’re playing four games in five nights and you need to rest somebody, I think that’s a call that I’ll make,” Popovich said. “I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, I’m sure.”

The Nov. 29 game at Miami was the Spurs’ 10th road game of the month and the last of a six-game road trip that spanned 10 days. After defeating the Orlando Magic by 21 points the night before, Popovich sent home starsTim DuncanTony Parker and Manu Ginobili, plus key rotation player Danny Green.

Almost as quickly as Stern learned about the absences in Miami, he issued an apology to fans, saying the Spurs’ decision was “unacceptable” and “substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”

Stern was particularly perturbed that the Spurs did not notify the league office in advance. Still, the Spurs’ reserves led nearly the entire game until losing the lead and the game in the final minute.

Some suggested that Popovich sent the players home as a not-so-subtle message to the league to express his distaste for the road-heavy schedule. Would Popovich actually risk another significant fine or possible suspension and rest multiple players again? Well, it’s impossible to predict what Popovich might do.

“A lot of cricumstances have to converge to sit two or three players on a given night,” Popovich said. “But it has to do with their bodies, how many hits they’ve taken, how many minutes they’ve played, what the schedule is, all those things.”

Popovich is certainly known for giving his older players nights off, especially Duncan and particularly in a back-to-back situation. He’s hardly the only coach to do so. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle used to give Jason Kidd nights off, typically later in the season, as a way to keep him fresh.

It was also not the first time that Popovich ordered multiple players home early from a road trip. However, the early season timing of this incident, plus it being a nationally televised game against the champs, did not sit well with the league office.

Yet until the league hands down a directive, Popovich doesn’t plan on changing his priorities.

“I don’t know what the guidelines are, do you?” Popovich said. “I don’t know how you plan. I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing for, I don’t know how long now, 16, 17 years, whatever it is. I’m mostly concerned with the health and safety of my players, especially the ones who are a little bit older and when they need rest I’m going to give it to them.”

In February, the AT&T Center is occupied by the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, so the Spurs will be away from Feb. 6-24, a nine-game trip that at least has the luxury of being split up by the All-Star break.

The Spurs play the first five before the break with one back-to-back, plus three games in four nights heading into the break. After it they play four games in six nights with the middle two being a back-to-back.

58 Comments

  1. Donald says:

    For everyone that still wants to argue about the fans missing out or the fact that pop didn’t alert the league in a timely manner all I have to say to you is this, if the Spurs are already at a disadvantage by not having 4 of our best players wouldn’t it make sense as a tactician(head coach) to try and take said disadvantage and try to turn it into a strength. Why should pop have to alert the heat who to practice for?! It’s called strategy…This last Dallas game Dallas tried to surprise us with Dirks first game back without any heads up and STILL lost. So again how are we gonna be penalized for already having a supposedly “weaker” team that was coming off a brutal scehdule against a well rested group of “superstars” when we still almost won. Pops concern isn’t to help the heat it’s to help the Spurs a.k.a the winningest franchise in the four major sports over the last 15 years, and for anyone that tries to make an excuse for the heat barely winning think about why the spurs win, they treat every opponent even the raptors and bobcats like their the best team in the league and the spurs approach every game with a sense of urgency and respect, if the heat team lack that then obviously they don’t deserve to be called champions anymore and the Spurs will once again take pleasure in making stern have to grin and swallow it when it’s time to hand Pop, R.C., and Timmy trophy #5

  2. N K says:

    In my opinion our starters would’ve delivered a worse game against Miami then our reserves did!
    They almost beat the Heat, while our starters had a lot of minutes racked up under their belts in the previous days. Oh and nobody seems to mention the Grizzlies game which looking at the forms and standing could easily turn to be a seed tie-breaker!
    If you ask any Spurs fan who would you rather win against the Grizzlies or the Heat, I’m sure most of us will say Grizzlies in a heartbeat !

  3. Jeff says:

    I think this is bull, like I seen in a comment above, you buy tickets to a game, it doesn’t mean you’re gunna see all of them, Popovich did what he thought was best for his player, Duncan is now 36, and btw four games in five nights is stupid, the NBA needs to learn how to make a schedule, and lastly there is no such rule against what Popovich did, I think it’s time David Stern steps down. All I’m saying is Popovich did nothing wrong and that huge fine is way over the line when it has no jurisdiction!!!!

  4. Max says:

    Popovich testing the waters just to see what the league will accept. Back to back nights are very tough for all players and if back from many injuries, then that just adds fuel to the fire. So, maybe better scheduling? one night in between games? I am not a supporter of POP, but have to admire his willingness to call a spade a spade. I place the POP in the same catergory as one would place Bobby Knight on the College level. Turns out great players, but?????I would think that a player would need a very strong constitution to play for the POP. That is why I always supported I. Thomas, after watching him play the PG position for Bobby Knight, then I gave him all Kudos for surviving and the to the rough and tumble Pistons, Thomas has to be a tough guy.

  5. eddy says:

    This guy popovich love controversy omg…just play the players if they not hurt!what cuz they tired? I mean thats the fun of the game to be competive and see who stay standing at the of the season…if im ginoblie or parker i be heyy i dont need no rest i was made for this im a atlete and if i need to run everyday i will do it…so popovish shssss please

  6. Mattlawu says:

    I think he did the right thing. It should be entirely up to the coach who to play and when to play them. Stern needs to butt out of it.

  7. Dieter says:

    Stern should respect coaches who don’t want their starts to get injured because of an insane shedule, not fine them. And it’s the team that pays the salaries, not the NBA… if they want to have a say in this, than Stern should make a deal with the teams that NBA pays them a big part of the players salaries. In return the NBA can write a script for the regular season and playoffs about who plays and who wins.

  8. b3 says:

    You know what’s interesting? Last year after the Spurs played the Jazz in Utah, this same issue came up about resting stars and all that. Adam Silver, not Stern, issued a statement that “It is within Pop’s right to rest his stars, and that HE WOULD BE THE LAST ONE HE WOULD QUESTION ABOUT HIS DECISIONS!” However this year, the same issue comes up after the Spurs play…The HEAT. It just goes to show the “loyalty”, if you will, that he is demonstrating in defendind the team and fans of his “favorite team” by portraying Pop as a horrible monster who showed a lack of judgement in the situation. Total BS.

  9. Rocketman says:

    I think Stern should be fined $250,000.00 for tampering with trade between Lakers,Rockets,and Hornets! Stern has a big ego.It should be the coaces choice who to play and so forth.What does he want rating a regular season game or the playoffs?Wouldn’t you rather see a healthy and rested Spurs team in the playoffs then a injury ridden team who would not be able to compete in the premier tough Western Conference! Yes except a couple of teams the west is much harder to play 82 games then the weak eastern conference! Stern you run the league and let Owners,General Managers and Coaches run their teams
    the way they seem fit. By the way it took the Heat the last minute at home to beat scrubs from Spurs team!

    • 34yr fan says:

      …..good point…BUT, as a longtime fan……there are NO ‘scrubs’ on the Spurs roster….period!!….. Just look at the roster sometime on the website……many of the ‘bench’ players would start on other teams !! just a thought……. but I know what you meant….

      • Rocketman says:

        I’m a Rockets fan but live in San Antonio yes the Spurs have good bench players point well taken.However down the stretch can they hang with OKC or Memphis.This is their last run as team is getting older! Duncan is the best Power forward to play the game just like Hakeem was the best center in the last 20 years! By the way do you remember game 1 of Western Conf game a guy name David Robinson got schooled by Hakeem a clinic?

      • 34yr fan says:

        I remember it way too well when the MVP was ‘schooled’ in your book and in Spur fan’s book it was taken out of the game with the ‘you can’t get close to me fouls’. Just a thought. That series was the one where neither team could win at home in the first four games and then there was Game 5……Just like Game 1……. not sayin’ that Hakeem was not one of the greatest –(he is)– just that it would seem that David had earned more respect by that time in his career than to have him taken out of the game so easily….No superstar treatment there ….but then the Spurs ……and the Rockets for that matter, will Rarely get that type of treatment. I was backing the Rockets once I got over the ….uh…..bad taste in my mouth, if you know what I mean. Plus I loved the fact that a non-darling team won the Finals two years in a row!! WOW !!!!! Heart of a Champion !! Go Spurs Go…… an go Rockets !!

    • Nyisha says:

      I totaly agree. I am happy that he is retiring I think he has lost touch with the idea that the game is evolving.

  10. GTFOH says:

    Players play, coaches coach, and cheerleaders cheer….let Pop do his job and Stern needs to take that stick outta his rectal region and stop putting a hand in how these organizations handle their business. There is a reason Pop was hired as the HEAD COACH….so he can COACH and make DECISIONS for the BETTER of the ORGANIZATION and not for the league to have all these run down players come all-star break and beyond. Let the man do his job is all im saying. SMH that Stern retirement is not coming soon enough.

  11. terrance says:

    Popovich should be able to uses players the way he sees fit David Stern is a dictator his uselfulness in the NBA has run its course . goodbye mister Stern and good riddance . I can’t believe we’ve been having this discussion . if it’s my team I’ll play my players the way I see fit and no one’s going to tell me how to play them . these old guys have to play a whole season we have to get lthe whole season of them not just 1 or 2 games. him resting them could be the difference between injury or being healthy

  12. sshhh says:

    if the heat lost that game, will the stern still fine pop?

  13. jad says:

    the only reason they wer that upset its because fans are expecting these players .. when they are not playing theyl lose money especially if they knew abt the changes before the game .. its all about the money .. havin a back to back playing games cn exaust u they need their rest

  14. Pistol says:

    Seriously, NBA paid guys to create schedules? Look at San Antonio “four games in five nights”:
    1st: Long road trip ending with 11/25 @ Raptors, 11/26 @ Wizards, 11/28 @ Magic, 11/29 @ Heat (Thrusday night on TNT) Note: 5 days off for Miami!!!
    2nd: 12/30 @ Mavs, 21/31 vs Nets, 01/02 @ Bucks, 01/03 @ Knocks (Thursday on TNT??)
    3rd: 03/31 vs Heat, 04/01 @ Grizzlies, 04/03 vs Magic, 04/04 @ Thunder (Thurday night on TNT) Note: 4 days off for OKC!!!
    This is incompetence or malice? I thought the goal was to offer the best show on national televised games but maybe I’m wrong. The NBA should be fined for that!

  15. Zandro says:

    As we can see it with our bare eyes, the nba was more concerned with its fans rather than the players

  16. douglas says:

    pop earns my respect… will stern pay for the spurs salary if any of the star players where injured due to fatigue… if he don’t i dont see why he has the right to fine the spurs…. whats the point of watcihng timmy and co play a lack lusture game… at least the game ws entertaining….

  17. Calpin says:

    Another point is – since this is a business, why cant the boss of the team give his workers (players) time off from the job since they have been doing so well and so much work in the long stretches and back to back games (jobs)? Isnt that up to the boss to decide? And, if yes, how can the bigger head (Stern) be fining that boss for doing something that he been doing for sixteen years, which is quite possibly the most successful team over that span?

    Another point, Stern said it was BAD for the league, if so, who should be fined when a star player is overworked to the point of injury, or gets ejected and the fans don’t get to see him play? If nobody can be fined, then I dont see how Pop should be fined either?

    What do you all think?

  18. Jeremy says:

    what fans would want to watch such a tired bunch of Spurs against the Heat? The game was close and pop made the right call. Stern was foolish to not forsee that schedule. Purely the league to blame. once the schedule is set Pop can play his players as best see fit. It’s also a good strategy for Pop to keep them out in the one meeting this year because now they know with their star players they can beat the Heat at home. p.s. I”m a Heat / Lebron fan so I”m just being straight up here.

  19. gw says:

    I’m so tired of this story. The NBA schedule has always been crazy. It used to be not uncommon for teams to play three road games in three nights. The policy should be that you can rest players whenever you want, but they must travel with the team and be present at games.

    • bigblob says:

      I agree with this statement. The schedule is going to be crazy either way. I think it’s crazier this year because everyone is still stuck on last year’s schedule which was just a little bit more lenient because of there only being 66 games not 82. I do however think that because of the way that it was 4 players and Popovich actually sent them on a plane to go back to SA was kind of unruling. David Stern had a right to fine the team, but it wasn’t necessary for that big of a fine. In the same aspect, yes I do agree that if the coach chooses to sit players out they must stay with the team.

      • jenn says:

        Why must they fly pointlessly with the team if they won’t be playing? Just to add to the greenhouse effect as deadweight on the plane? Or to waste half a day or more of their rest?

    • bigwes95 says:

      i think they should have been fined, they should atleast tell the league and the heat (or whoever their opponent is). when you base most of your strategy on 3 or 4 players, then you will find it extremely hard to change your strategy when you find them gone at game time. he has a right to rest players, but sending them to back to SA, and not telling anyone? that shouldn’t be allowed. if someone gets injured and can’t play, do they get an excuse to go home? no, they still have to travel with the team even though it’s “pointless”. i do think htey should lower number of games to around 62 or 64, but not to have it scrunched up like the lockout season. the scheduling should have been better by the league, but they’re veterans and should know how to rest and take care of their bodies better. just look at Kareem, he never complained about the schedule, and most of his injuries were self inflicted (like when he broke his hand from a bad call), so i don’t see why the Spurs should be able to use excuses, but someone like Lebron couldn’t (and he just got done playing 4 games in 5 nights and not complining)

  20. Alberto Decena Jr says:

    Reduce the regular season games to 50-60 instead of the current 82. And reduce player salaries as they’re just too high. That way tickets will cost less, for one and maybe all teams will be reasonably viable.

  21. Jonathan says:

    Seriously, there shouldn’t even be any guidelines that restrains a coach from doing anything with his players. If a coach’s job is to produce the best output for the team as whole, then he shouldn’t be restrained from that job. Popovich was wise to rest his veteran players especially against a team that can be very physical. The quarter million dollar fine was just unnecessary and David Stern needs to chill. So what if all the people who bought tickets to see all the superstars play were disappointed. There are plenty of games in one season. That’s life.

  22. Basketball says:

    That is so true… There is no guideline… Does David Stern own the spurs? No. Does David Sern want other teams to win champion rather than the spurs? Yes. Facts said all……

  23. DanteInferno says:

    Well,I was watching the game when the broadcasters announced the fine. I was,to put it plain and simple,infuriated.
    Whatever a coach does, for reasons concerning his team success (mid and long term) , is his and only his decision. We love the stars, but even more we love the game. And the bench of San Antonio played such a game that no one should or could have any complain.
    Come on,let’s get serious. Even in the profit-wise prospect of the league, such an imposition would lead to a slow but sure death (with more such fines and rules) of the original meaning of basketball.Let the game be played and intervene only to make it better. We won’t Pop (and every Pop) to have the freedom to choose how he will manage the team.
    So please,again,get serious

  24. Brian says:

    Popovich is the undisputed best coach in the game. He can do whatever he pleases and that old fool Stern better retire before he makes himself look more silly.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Rest the 4 players, and the bench can probably win anyways

  26. TG says:

    Popovich is the coach so like he said, unless there are no guidelines on resting players, he has the right to do whatever he wants to his team, as any other coach for their teams. and he shouldn’t have to worry about what fans want, if fans don’t like what they see, go demand money back!

    let’s be honest, most Heat fans probably came into the game as soon as they heard or saw that Spurs big 3 weren’t there, they immediately think “this should be a gimme/we should win this easily”. but it ended up being a tight game, even though Heat still won.

    • JV says:

      That’s because the Spurs bench was playing as if it it was a playoff game, while Miami was taking it lightly and you can tell their defensive intensity was no where to be seen. Miami won because of Lebron/Ray allen’s clutch performance

      • 34yr fan says:

        oh…..you mean the hired gun’s….uh…..I mean Ray-Ray’s ” LUCKY “…..and I mean real LUCKY 3-pt shot…… that’s all………… PS: If a so-called Championship team can’t concentrate on the game and play Defense EVEN when the “stars” are not playing, then they don’t have the heart of a champion……….. and absolutely will NOT successfully defend the Title…….just sayin

  27. Franz says:

    I’m from Australia and if I went to the States to watch my Spurs play, I’d be extremely disappointed not to see TD, MG and TP. But, everyone needs to realize that coach Pop’s job is to win championships and coach the way he sees fit.

    Obviously teams have been doing it for other reasons for so long whether it’s resting up before the playoffs or simply to ‘tank’ in the season. Don’t know why the Spurs should be the scapegoat in this debacle. As a matter of fact, the decision whether they rest players or not is the luxury the Spurs have for consistently winning (just like perks for employees who consistently perform in their jobs).

  28. Scott says:

    Popovich must have sat them out to take a substle jab at the league for what is clearly an unfair schedule designed to keep the Spurs from winning another title. It was Miami’s first game in a week and the Spurs 4th in 5 days…that’s absolutely not by chance. Stern, I believe, realized this was not done merely to rest players and it angered him. However, both he and Pop could not come out an admit the real issue here.

  29. Jolan says:

    that fine was to much, but is he for real?! what he did was detrimental to the league! it was a nationally televised game, and very highly anticipated by many, and he rested his 3 best players! that makes the the league look bad, and he didnt even let the league know he was doing it! if i went to that game, i would of been pissed! i am paying to watch them, and to know that they could of played but didnt, i would be furious. this could of been avoided if he just rested them the game before (the one not nationally televised).

    all in all though, better this then working them to injury like thibodeau. If i was in the league, i wouldn’t want to be on that team, by the time the playoffs come around, they will be so banged up, they wont last!

    • tetfal says:

      that mean fans in orlando are less important then fans in miami, thats is really smart

      • RJ says:

        No, it means fans in Orlando would actually stand a chance of seeing their team beat the Spurs. And also, that game wasn’t nationally televised, so you’re looking at fans in orlando vs. fans everywhere.

    • Edub says:

      Hold on….Pop has been doing this for YEARS. It’s not it’s brand new to the and he decided to try it out. So what about it makes the league look so bad? Looking into the future for a championship instead of worrying about your players’ health and a couple of games? Everyone knows the Spurs will be a Top 4 in the playoff seeds and they were the #1 seeds for the past 2 seasons. I don’t understand what the big deal about this is. And not only does this rest his major players but it keeps the guys on the bench ready for a big game seeing as how the Spurs bench outworked Miami until Spurs missing and Lebron hitting key shots. If Spurs had won that game, and I wish they did, the media would have blown up.

      And with Thibs’ situation, his players are young. What’s the difference between averaging 37 minutes like Lebron, Wade, KD, or Melo, and averaging 3 extra minutes for Luol Deng and Joakim Noah? They’re young and they only get better from it. And injuries, come no matter how healthy a player would be.
      People should really stop getting so hyped up with the media and actually know some facts.

      • Russel says:

        If comments on NBA.com had a like button, you sir, would have my thumb. Too many people let their opinions be dictated by the media, instead of actually using their own brain.

    • George NYC says:

      Jolan,

      who cares what are you paying or not. He is the coach and he can choose what ever he thinks is good for the team.

      If the office has a problem with it, they should look into the schedule and make appropriate changes, where he should not have to worry about getting players injured and having the season on the line.

      Also, would you like to watch a game where the home team had a 4-5 days of rest, while the guests are playing their 4th game in a 5 days?

    • SmallF21 says:

      I strongly disagree .

      What about Orlando Fans (Spurs played them in the first game of the back-to-back)???? Just because that game wasn’t nationally televised Pop should have rested the players against them???? Orlando fans would have also been pissed and mad. He’s the coach, he can rest them whenever he wants. League’s about money, Pop’s about the game.

    • Hm says:

      1) If you buy a ticket, you buy a ticket to see two teams square off. It’s not a contract that guarantees you will see certain players. It’s not a contract that guarantees you can be coach for the night (=picking who plays). Know what you’re buying.
      2) The league would have to prove how detrimental it was to the number of viewers of the televised game, in order to make the fine seem reasonable. They haven’t done so, which makes me believe that virtually nobody tuned out after hearing the news. Rightfully so, because it was still a good game.

    • Rob says:

      If you actually like basketball.. then you’ll enjoy the game as it is as long as its competitive. Watching 40point blow outs isn’t my thing. With out their top 4 scorers at the time, the spurs made it competitive and almost won the game, i actually think they gave it to the heat because pop never called a time out on the last play to set something up, just let them run it. Seriously, this topic needs to drop. I cant believe stern actually fined the spurs any amount…but surely he understands what playing 4 games in 5 nights is like. Pop is there to do whats best for the team, and he’s created a strong enough team to last without their core players, end of story, quit being jealous

    • Jay says:

      lol its quite ironic…

      for so many years no one cared about the “old” , “boring” spurs, no one wanted to see them play… and now they dont show up and everyone is totally furious about it… hypocrisy at its best.

      oh and btw: I dont know if you watched the game, I did..and it was one hell of a game. definitely one of the better games so far this season.

    • jenn says:

      How was it detrimental to the league? How could that game have been any better – it was a nailbiter till the end! Would it have been better for the league if pops played his old stars and got blown out by 20? Stern should be thanking him for making for a very entertaining game under the circumstances. “Star”s don’t automatically make for better games, especially when teams like spurs where system is more important are involved.

    • 34yr fan says:

      So the “fans” didn’t get a good game? If it was sooooo bad to leave the ‘stars’ out of the mix, then why on earth did the ‘champs’ Barely win…….. I think the Miami fans were on the edge of their seats at the end of that game, no matter WHO was playing…….. Stern just thinks the league office is THE most important part of the league and he will continue to ‘act’ like issues like this are BAD for “HIS” league when the REAL issue is POWER…… He thinks he and that NY office is more important than the millionaires/billionaires that actually give him a JOB/PAYCHECK…….guess what ….this just in …His “Job’ is not that important …..period !!!!!

    • realist says:

      who cares, he is the coach. if he wants to rest his older players, he can. everybody is so bent out of shape over it and yet the spurs, with backups, still almost beat the cold in their own arena. so what is the problem? it was still a good game, and its only the regular season. bottom line here is that there is no rule saying you cannot do what popovich did and yet they got hit with a ridiculous fine. he is the best coach in the nba, he can do what he wants with his team because he knows what is best for his players and i bet he does it again. its better to see his star players, who once again are all older, have more energy in the playoffs, where the games actually mean something, than watching them get wore out to win 1 out of 82 regualr season games way before the halfway mark of the season. get over it people

  30. TWizz says:

    Seriously, who created these schedules? Denver’s and San Antonio’s schedules are horrible to look at.

    • 34yr fan says:

      …..and even worse to have to play it…!!! The league office would have us believe that that this is the only way they can get the schedules to work……. but I, for one, am NOT buying it……..We all know who the ‘Darlings’ of the league are…….and those two teams are NOT on the list….. Happy New Year to ALL !!!!!!

  31. ko0kie says:

    boring. that is so yesterday.. ;)