5 Best Games for San Antonio Spurs' Gregg Popovich to Rest Aging Stars
Gregg Popovich has been resting his aging stars for years now, but in a nationally televised game, commissioner David Stern decided enough was enough.
The Spurs received a $250,000 fine for their actions, which were both criticized and supported.
However, the Spurs difficult schedule along with their stars' ages remain a problem, and it isn't very characteristic of Popovich to see him completely alter his plans because Stern wants him to.
He'll simply modify them.
With over half of the season to go, the Spurs will likely make similar decisions some time before the year's end. Here are a few games in which the Spurs can afford to sit their veterans, without drawing a fine.
Wednesday, January 2 at Milwaukee Bucks
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The San Antonio Spurs finish the month of December with three games in four days, playing the Houston Rockets on the Dec. 28, the Dallas Mavericks on the road on Dec. 30 and facing the Brooklyn Nets on the year's final day.
After one day of rest, the team will fly out to Milwaukee, which under normal circumstances wouldn't be too bad. However, the day after, the Spurs are scheduled to face the New York Knicks on the road, and given their play this season the matchup would be difficult even with rest.
Following that, the Spurs have one day off before traveling back home to take on the Philadelphia 76ers.
The start of the year won't be kind for the Spurs, and a rest is necessary for the veterans to ensure they are ready for New York.
So when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are each mysteriously injured for one game, David Stern won't be able to do anything about it.
Unfortunately, the Big Three will be forced to make a sideline appearance in Milwaukee, to avoid a fine. Either that, or they can hire doppelgangers to appear in their place, while they secretly fly straight to the Big Apple.
I think Bronson Pinchot has Ginobili covered...
Monday, January 7 at New Orleans Hornets
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If Popovich doesn't rest his aging stars against Milwaukee, he'll have another opportunity to do so a few days later.
After hosting Philadelphia, the Spurs will have one day to travel to Louisiana where they will face the New Orleans Hornets. After that, they'll fly back to San Antonio to take on the Los Angeles Lakers before traveling to Memphis to face the Grizzlies just two days later.
I normally wouldn't condone resting the faces of the franchise at home, but this is another story. The schedule leading up to the New Orleans game is grueling enough, but the games following it are even worse.
LA has struggled this season, but the Spurs' stars will need to be at full health in order to beat them. The same goes for Memphis, who took the Spurs to double overtime in their first contest this season.
Since it's a home game, I wouldn't suggest sitting them as a last-minute decision. Instead, Popovich should let the NBA know over a week in advance, so that people buy their tickets accordingly.
If the resting is prior knowledge, then can it really be dubbed a disservice to fans?
Friday, February 8 at Detroit Pistons
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On February 6, the Spurs embark on their annual Rodeo Road trip. Over the course of February, the Spurs will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns—all on the road.
Just saying all of those names makes me tired.
The Spurs will face the Pistons as the second game on the road trip, before traveling to Brooklyn two days later, and then Chicago immediately after.
Three games in four days? No thank you.
Brooklyn has been struggling, and Chicago still is without superstar Derrick Rose, but the two remain tough competitors nonetheless.
In order to compete with them, the Big Three needs to be fully rested, meaning they should sit out the game against the Pistons.
After all, a Duncan/Ginobili/Parker-less Spurs should still be able to take care of business against Detroit.
Even if they dress for the game, and only log a few minutes each, it is important that the Spurs don't tire their stars out prior to the difficult games.
Friday, April 3 vs. Orlando Magic
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From March 29 to April 1, the San Antonio Spurs will play three games. The first is against the Los Angeles Clippers, the team that has beaten the Spurs twice already this season.
Then after a day of rest, they'll take on the defending champions, the Miami Heat. A day later, they'll travel to Memphis in another battle against the Grizzlies.
Following the Memphis showdown, the Spurs will have a day of rest before playing an easy opponent in the Orlando Magic. Then, the Spurs will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road as the second half of a back-to-back.
In case you were counting, that's five games in seven days, with four being against the league's top teams.
The Spurs will be tired following the Miami/Memphis back-to-back, and in order to challenge the Thunder, their stars cannot be tired.
So when Duncan, Parker and Ginobili each record a DNP-illness, few should be wondering why.
The Final Few Games of the Season
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When teams prepare for the playoffs, they often sit their starters to ensure no one gets injured prior to the big stage.
The Spurs, as a consistent playoff team, have been doing it for years.
The end of their season isn't incredibly tiring, but with the playoffs just around the corner, the Spurs should observe the tradition and ensure everyone is at full health for the postseason.
In 2011, Manu Ginobili injured himself at the end of the regular season and was never 100 percent in the first series against the Grizzlies.
The Spurs likely will not be alone in this practice, so it would be strange to see Stern impose sanctions. Traveling won't be an issue, so there shouldn't be any question whether or not the Big Three will be in attendance.
They'll likely be on the sidelines, cheering their teammates on as they prepare for the next stages.