Column: David Stern has lost all of my respect
The commissioner is the most powerful man in any respective sport, but despite the power he possesses, he commands little respect amongst the fans of their sports.
David Stern has recently lost my respect.
On Friday, Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, fined San Antonio $250,000 for not bringing Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green to a game against Miami. The game against the Heat was the final game in a six-game road trip for the Spurs.
According to Stern in a statement he released, "The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early season game that was the team's only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media or the league office in a timely way." The absence of the four aforementioned players was "a disservice to the league and our fans," said Stern.
So, the Spur's future hall-of-fame coach Greg Popovich is being reprimanded for doing what he believed was the best decision for the team's long-term success? Huh, guess you cannot win them all, Pop.
The Spurs were in the tail end of a six-game road trip, which had them traveling roughly 5,500 miles over nine days. In that span they saw six different cities in two different countries. The total age of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili is 101 years old.
You do the math.
The NBA has a grueling 82 game regular season that often has teams playing in consecutive road games for long stretches, which seems to have become more common under Stern's commission. For an aging team like the Spurs, whose "Big Three" might be the oldest collection of stars in the league, they need all the rest they can get. Popovich was acting in the best intentions for his players' health.
I understand why Stern is mad. The Spurs played in a nationally televised game against the Heat, two of the most popular franchises in the league right now. Fans tuned into that game to see the defending champions take on a crafty veteran team of future hall-of-famers. Instead they were treated to Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills and Nando de Colo.
Without their marque players, the game was supposed to be a wash for Bron Bron and company. Instead, it took a 12-2 run in the final 2:14 for the Heat to pull off a 105-100 narrow victory over the Spurs' J.V. squad.
If anything, Stern should fine the Heat for that game.
Popovich made his decision based on what would benefit his team by the time the playoffs came around because he is trying to win a championship, the ultimate goal of every franchise. Pop is no stranger to sitting his star players. Last year, when he held Duncan out of a game, Popovich jokingly wrote "old" as his ailment in the box score.
The fine has become a hotly debated topic amongst coaches, players, analysts and fans. Those who support it side with Stern on the basis that the Spurs sandbagged the NBA on such a highly televised event, taking away from the entertainment factor of the game and damaging an industry worth nearly $5 billion. Those who disagree believe that Popovich was doing what was best for his team, which is the number one priority for any coach.
Both sides hold merit, but who is right? Well, no one actually because no matter what the naysayers, like myself, believe Stern has made the ruling and his word is final.
However, Steve Kerr took to Twitter and summed up Stern's actions in probably the most appropriate response seen in the media. "If the NBA punishes the Spurs for sitting players, it opens up a huge can of worms. This is a serious legal challenge for the league."
Stern will create more good than bad from this fine because he has created a standard, one that does not resonate well with NBA coaches. By fining the Spurs for benching their star players last minute, he puts the league on notice that if they do the same for marque games, they will be punished. Now, if any team decides to follow suit, Stern is forced to fine that team because he set a precedent, and if he does not enforce it again, he will look biased and power-hungry.
Stern has announced that he will step down as commissioner in 2014. Why would he try to make more enemies with only two years left in his term?
What Stern has shown is that he values the money he can make off of a game more than the health of his employees - the players. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are considered to be old in their sport, and at this stage in their career, they are more likely to be affected by fatigue and have a higher perceived risk of injury. Popovich was not acting out of spite or trying to make a statement, he was doing what he thought was best for his team.
This is another case of money destroying the sanctity of sports. I used to question why fans booed so loudly at Stern during the NBA Draft each and every year, but now, after this stunt, I do not blame them.
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