Gregg Popovich and the Benching: Why the Spurs Stars Should've Played

Keith JusticeContributor IIIMarch 21, 2017

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 29: San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on November 29, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is not the first coach who has rested players.  

He is not the first coach who has sent out his backups in lieu of his starters in a regular season game.  

He is, though, the first who has seen his team receive sanctions for his management of his team's roster.  

Commissioner David Stern came down hard on Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs for his decision to not suit up his three biggest stars for a marquee game against the NBA media darling Miami Heat.  It should be noted that San Antonio also did not suit up Danny Green, however no one really cared about that, with the possible exception of Green's immediate family.

The NBA cited an obligation to the fans as the primary reason the Spurs were negligent in not playing their notable players.  It's a fair point, given a number of people purchased tickets for this game with the hopes of seeing the Heat's stars match up against the Spurs' stars.  However, there are no guarantees when you purchase tickets to see any event.  Just ask New York Jets fans how they felt about that Thanksgiving day debacle against New England.  

Sometimes you just don't get the what you wished for.

A number of years back, I attended a taping of the Tonight Show.  We were told Bruce Willis was going to be the featured guest.  During pre-show, a stagehand came out and announced to the audience that Bruce had to cancel due to whatever reasons, and his replacement was going to be the girls from The View.  I was disappointed, but I still got to see Jay Leno.  Sure, I would have preferred Bruce to Joy Behar, but I got past it.  It's kind of like the momentary disappointment when Heat fans realized they were going to watch Tiago Splitter instead of Tim Duncan.  Actually, Joy Behar is much worse.  Heat fans should be delighted they didn't have to go through what I did.  

So let's examine the real reason David Stern should have fined the Spurs.  Sitting key players in a matchup between two NBA heavyweights is soft.  We love soft, if it refers to our pillow when we sleep at night or gentle music that plays in the background on a date with the girl of our dreams.  But soft in an NBA matchup?  Can I get old school on you?  

How do you think Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Isiah Thomas would have reacted if their coach chose to send them home to rest instead of matching up against the reigning NBA champs in a pivotal, early regular season game?  

The notion that elite athletes need to take a day off to rest should be offensive to those of us regular guys who like to play sports.  We work our eight-hour day, then bust our butts in rec. league basketball or softball games, drink beer afterwards and still manage to make it to work on time the next morning. None of us would ever consider missing a game because we were tired.  It's simply not in our nature.

Perhaps Popovich should consider a mandatory napping time for his pampered players instead of not having them play at all.  A nice 10-minute snooze sometime in the second quarter might be refreshing for his aging stars.  I know it works wonders for my three-year-old son when I put him in daycare.  

This might also pacify Stern, who seems the type of folk who might enjoy a nice little snooze himself.