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Jordan Bean | Sacked

Who’s really to blame?

Published: Monday, December 3, 2012

Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 07:12

 

As I was scrolling through ESPN.com on Friday afternoon getting my daily sports fix, I stumbled upon a headline that said “David Stern: Sanctions Coming.”

I rattled my brain trying to think of who deserved to be penalized based on recent activities, but could not come up with anything. The Celtics and Nets players involved in the brawl two days prior had already been reprimanded and there had, I thought, been no other major issues. 

Intrigued by the headline, I clicked. I spent the next five minutes reading through the column by Heat beat writer Brian Windhorst

The article was written on Stern’s comments regarding the San Antonio Spurs, who the previous night had sent three starters and a significant bench player back to San Antonio on a commercial flight before tip-off in Miami. The commissioner was quoted saying, “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”

Personally, I fail to see which part of this decision was unacceptable. Was it that Gregg Popovich sent three of his aging stars home before their fourth game in five nights and sixth game of the road trip? On top of that, they had been scheduled to play a total of eleven away games in the month of November.

It was announced later on Friday that the organization would be fined $250,000 by the league. The reasoning was that the Spurs had done a disservice to the league and acted in a way that was contrary to the best interests of the NBA.

On a broader scale it may appear as though these allegations are true. Was it in the best interest of the NBA to have a marquee matchup in prime time devalued as it was? No, of course not. 

Television companies such as TNT pay good money to the league to broadcast these games. Fans at the game felt cheated because they paid a higher price for the showdown between these two top teams.

But who’s really to blame for giving the players a night off? 

The NBA is not like Major League Baseball where a team spends multiple nights in one city before departing for the next. The NBA is a one-and-done league where, after completing one game, a team is shipped off to the next city. 

Instead of blaming Popovich for his actions, Stern should re-evaluate the scheduling of his league. Is it fair to ask a team to travel to four different cities in five nights and, each night, expect that the players are physically and mentally able to give the effort needed to win a professional basketball game? 

Popovich, in defense of his actions, said in his postgame press conference that the best interest of his team was his priority and he would make decisions that reflected this. 

The Spurs coach, in my opinion, has his priorities in the right place. I’ve heard before that if a coach starts managing like a fan, he will become one. Coaches are paid to make decisions that best allow their teams to compete for championships and, ultimately, this was Popovich’s motive. With a matchup looming against the league-leading Memphis Grizzlies at home, he wanted to ensure that his team would be fully prepared. 

It should be noted as well that the game was not lacking entertainment. It was startlingly close given the situation, with Miami ultimately prevailing 105-100.

David Stern has set a dangerous precedent with this ruling. It is not his job to coach a basketball team. His title is commissioner, not coach. In the long run, a Thursday night matchup against the Heat in an 82-game season is trivial at best. Keep doing your job, David Stern, and let the coaches do theirs. Until then — you’re sacked!

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Jordan Bean is a freshman who has yet to declare a major. He can be reached at Jordan.Bean@tufts.edu.

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