Gregg Popovich Weighs in on Debate About Resting NBA Players

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2017

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich watches play during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 97-90. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich responded to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's memo regarding players being held out of games for rest, per ESPN's Michael C. Wright, saying, "I understand Adam's concern, and it's a legitimate concern."

He continued: "We all have it. We all feel badly about [it]. I think they used the example of the young man and his dad or whatever. They've saved up their money. They want to go see somebody play, and that person's not there. I get it. If it was me, I'd be miffed myself.

"But we all have different roles, different jobs and different goals. We can't satisfy everybody. But I think that every owner's gonna be different. I think it's a slippery slope and makes it difficult to keep trust and camaraderie to the degree that I think you have to have to be successful in this league if owners get too involved in what coaches and GMs are doing."

Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams, saying resting star players for marquee games will be heavily discussed at the NBA board of governors meeting April 6. 

Silver's memo also warned teams of potentially "significant penalties," per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, in the event they don't give "notice to the league office, their opponent and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest."

The memo was issued three days after the Cleveland Cavaliers sat LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for a Saturday prime-time ABC game against the Los Angeles Clippers

Speaking to Shelburne, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said the NBA called him "seven minutes" after the Cavs announced they would rest their trio of stars. He added that the league was "not happy" since the absence of James, Irving and Love took away the intrigue of the matchup.

After the Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Lakers the following day, James said this, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin:

I don't think the NBA can do anything about it. At the end of the day, it sucks at times where certain guys have to rest, but certain guys need rest.

And it's a long, strenuous season, and the NBA does a great job of putting the schedule together as best as they can. You're going to have back-to-backs. You're going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights, but a coach's job is to figure out a way for their team to compete for a championship, not compete for a game.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers put the onus on the NBA to make sure nationally televised, prime-time games don't coincide with teams playing back-to-backs, per ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz.

"We have to protect our product," Rivers said.

"It's hard. It's impossible, if you actually knew what went into scheduling, but the look of back-to-back ABC national games—it's not good. ... I think we have to treat those games like they're afternoon games, and you don't play the night before. And then you don't play the next night after."

The discussion and debate about resting players gained attention with the Spurs, when they were fined $250,000 in 2012 by former Commissioner David Stern for keeping Tim DuncanTony ParkerManu Ginobili and Danny Green in San Antonio for a marquee game against the Miami Heat.