Popovich puts on a show
Gregg Popovich sent home four of his five best players, the fifth (Kawhi Leonard) already out with injury. David Stern overreacted, promising substantial sanctions against the San Antonio Spurs for robbing TNT of three of its shows main characters.
Twitter erupted, fans revolted, and Stern’s comments escalated the situation in both anger and humor.
What would have eventually been an anonymous late November game, forgotten within a week’s time, became a spectactle beyond what happened on the basketball court last night. And on the court the Spurs JV squad still managed to put on one of the most compelling games of this young season against the NBA champion Miami Heat.
Somewhere out there Popovich would be smirking about the whole spectacle, if he were prone to such guilty pleasures. Was America not entertained?
David Stern was wrong, and his errors go far beyond grasping for a punishment he has no basis or means of enforcing.
For all the talk of the Spurs missing stars, possibly its biggest draw was still in attendance for TNT’s game, if still on the sidelines. After all, Popovich alone is often worth the price of admission.
The in-game interviews have become a show in and of themselves, for those with enough humor and sense not to make these games out to be more than they are.
The basketball, well, Popovich didn’t disappoint either.
The Miami Heat perhaps played down to their opponent to some extent. But Popovich-led players have a history of punching above their weight. Or, in the circumstances that Diaw has found himself lately, keeping up with those below his (though notably, LeBron James outweighs Diaw–muscle being heavier and all–but the spirit of the comment remains).
Each of the Spurs role players are generally more talented than they get credit for, pushed aside for visual and statistical quirks (think Moneyball). And Popovich manages to piecemeal these quirky skill sets in a manner that puts each in their best position to succeed.
Among the most humorous comments last night, one that rang with surprising truth is these reserves (hilariously and appropriately dubbed “The Alamos”) probably deserve their own spot midway through most power rankings.
They spaced the floor, moved the ball, and stood toe-to-toe with LeBron James with the novelty and fun of a March Madness Cinderella in an early round game.
Disrespecting the game? Cheating the fans? Should such allegations be thrown out for every Washington Wizards game that somehow makes it on national television? Does Stern apologize for the disgraces Clippers owner Donald Sterling has brought on the NBA? And there are plenty of fans in Seattle still awaiting an apology as sincere and outraged as the one Stern issued last night.
Popovich rested his best players and those remaining still competed at a level above what many NBA teams might muster on the fourth game in five nights with such and obviously available excuse.
Stern is accountable to his owners and advertisers, Popovich to his team and its ability to compete throughout an entire NBA season. For those questioning his tactics, Duncan and Ginobili continuing to play at All-Star levels in their mid-30’s is proof enough that something is working. For those questioning the timing, so early in the season, points scored in the first quarter are just as valuable as those scored in the fourth.
Cheating the game? Popovich is capable of anything but.