A freshly painted line has just been drawn on the hardwood floors of every NBA arena.
This new line should never be crossed by NBA coaches or team management unless their pens are poised to write hefty checks to the league office for actions deemed to do disservice to the NBA or its fans, according to NBA Commissioner David Stern (via ESPN).
Stern stuck the San Antonio Spurs with a startling $250,000 fine for sitting star players Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli during Thursday night's marquee television matchup with the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat on TNT.
The Spurs' Gregg Popovich, arguably the NBA's best active coach, opted to rest his three stars and guard Danny Green instead of playing them against the up-tempo Heat following the Spurs' recent grueling road schedule.
Popovich has shrewdly led the Spurs to four NBA titles, maneuvering his team to among the elite NBA franchises with bold but effective coaching decisions. Ironically, he's been known to rub his own All-Star players the wrong way at first, only to have the very same players embrace his coaching style and extol his hard-line, business-like approach from the Spurs bench.
The model Spurs organization has historically eeked extra life out of aging stars. In the past Pop has rested Duncan, Parker and Ginobli in spite of lengthy winning streaks, thus saving their weary legs for the postseason.
Should the Spurs have been fined for holding four players out of Thursday's game versus the Heat?
Even NBA Hall of Famers and NBA on TNT announcers Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and Reggie Miller supported Popovich's decision, all the while biting their lips and bracing for a brewing storm from Stern certain to hurt the Spurs for their actions.
Popovich has never kept his stars out of key games this early in the season, which immediately drew ire from the commissioner's office. Stern's discipline came as quickly and assuredly as a LeBron James dunk at the end of a Miami Heat fast break.
Never averse to responding when either his authority, his philosophy or the integrity of the game has been challenged, Stern jumped on the Spurs with a whopping $250,000 fine for failing to notify the league office or ticket-holding fans in Miami of their choice to withhold Duncan, Parker, Ginobli and Green from Thursday's game.
Although TNT viewers as well as fans holding high-priced tickets for Thursday's contests may have been dismayed, the Spurs-Heat game actually turned out to be a thrilling contest that either team, whether the depleted Spurs or the surging Heat, could have won.
NBA fans may not have witnessed a Duncan bank shot, a Parker tear drop or a Ginobli drive on Thursday night, but they did in fact see an exciting game.
The Spurs complied with NBA league policy by apprising the league 60 minutes before tip-off that their four players would not be suiting up for Thursday's game. However, by that time the commish had already determined that his proverbial line in the sand had been crossed.
Much to the credit of other savvy NBA beat reporters, like J.J. Addande, NBA fans learned of the brooding feud between the at-times-persnickety Popovich and the Napoleonic Stern. Their disdain for each other finally came to a head, with Stern obviously proving who's boss with the fresh line he metaphorically painted on NBA hardwood floors and the deafeningly loud, unspoken words, "Don't you ever cross me!"
Sure, Popovich has reacted churlishly, if not childishly, with mono-syllabic responses during game-time interviews, a Stern-supported initiative which most NBA coaches begrudgingly follow. And he's never been a endorser of the commissioner.
But Pop demonstrates restraint and strength, while the outgoing commish has reacted unnecessarily or unprofessionally when someone enters his sand box not on his terms.
Ironically, Stern committed the greatest disservice to the NBA and its fans when he locked out players for a couple months last year during a contested labor dispute.
In addition, in the wake of Stern's meddling and squashing of the Lakers' trading for Chris Paul last summer, the commish's outrageous response to Jim Rome's prodding a month ago and now this bruhaha with the Spurs, NBA fans can only wonder what's next with the lame-duck commissioner.
Leaves me to wonder just how thickly he painted his line and how aggressively he's sitting on the other side of it waiting for the next perceived vassal to step over it.
Straight talk. No static.
MIKE—aka Mike Raffone—thee ultimate talking head on sports!