Rosen: Popovich v. Stern: Who wears the dunce cap?

commissionerAccording to his job description, David Stern is supposed to be totally neutral and impartial.

Except for possibly desiring a big-market rather than small-market team to advance to the NBA Finals, who wins and who loses shouldn’t be something that concerns the commissioner.

However, I absolutely guarantee that Stern was passionately rooting for Miami to beat San Antonio in Thursday night’s already infamous M.I.A. game.

Imagine how silly Stern would have looked had he proceeded to levy “substantial sanctions” against the Spurs if they had won despite sitting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green.

In any case, it says here that Stern’s disapproval and pregame threats have already put a dunce cap on his noggin.

With the game in question being San Antonio’s fourth in five days, coach Gregg Popovich (as is his wont) decided to award DNP’s to his three best players:  Duncan, a rapidly aging 36-year-old; Ginobili, increasingly injury-prone at 35; and Parker, 30 with a hell-for-leather style of play that makes him particularly susceptible to various pulls and sprains.

We can certainly expect all three to play Saturday in the big tilt against Memphis, with first place in the Southwest Division possibly at stake. And we can’t say we haven’t seen this before. Last February, the Spurs had an 11-game winning streak but were playing their third game in four nights, and Popovich rested his stars. They lost by 40.

“We’ve done this before in hopes of making a wiser decision, rather than a popular decision,” Popovich said prior to the game. “It’s pretty logical. I don’t think it was a tough decision at all. In fact, it was made when the schedule came out.”

According to Pop’s own job description, his only allegiance is to his team. Period.

Not to the fans, not to the media, not to the TV viewers, and certainly not to David Stern. And although the Spurs were missing their usual star power, the game turned out to be dramatic, revelatory and meaningful.

Dramatic, in that in order to subdue the feisty Spurs’ scrubs, the defending champs needed some clutch-time heroics by LeBron James.

Revelatory, in that several players’ pluses and minuses were clearly on display: Like Chris Bosh’s inability to play straight-up defense.  Or how only the presence of Ray Allen prompted a satisfactory degree of ball- and player-movement when the Heat had possession.  Not to mention Tiago Splitter’s bad hands, Nando deColo’s atrocious passwork and Dwayne Wade’s spongy legs.

Meaningful in that Pop showed great trust in his relatively minor functionaries, further depleted by the injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. And by enabling them to play important minutes against the mighty Heat, Pop insured that his team’s role players will be ready to step up as the season grinds on, and if/when one of more of the starters becomes bench-bound with injuries.

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  1. james katt says

    Hey Charley, since you are a big-man expert, what do you think about this:

    The Lakers are not playing Gasol or Howard correctly. Gasol needs to play CENTER on offense. It is his best position. He is better at center on offense than Howard. At center, Gasol won’t be outquicked by opposing centers. Howard can easily play power forward on offense. He is the best and most devastating pick-and-roll big man. This is Steve Nash’s strength on offense. It would be a match made in heaven if only the Lakers would utilize it. Thus Howard should play farther from the rim, setting picks for Nash and Kobe. On defense, Gasol and Howard can play twin towers. But again, Howard should cover the opposing power forward, Gasol the opposing center. This plays to their strengths. Gasol would then be faster than the opposing center. Against centers, Gasol is actually better than Howard on defending them one-to-one. Howard is better on team defense than one-to-one defense. Howard can still get his rebounds and play quarterback on defense. Gasol and Howard can take turns playing center when either one sits on the bench to rest. Doing these changes would maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of Gasol and Howard, turning them into viable twin towers.

  2. Wes says

    Really glad to see CR has a regular platform again. Have enjoyed all the books that I’ve read and echo Lucas’ point: let’s see the occasional game breakdown. Always enjoyable.

  3. Jim says

    I have never been more upset with David Stern. I can no longer take his rule as dictator and him being under the allusion that he always knows best. If Popovich feels that resting his players give his team the best shot at a title he is entitled to do that. Doesn’t matter that fans bought tickets to see the Spurs, doesn’t matter that it might have hurt TV ratings, doesn’t matter that the Spurs basically gave themselves a loss before the game started. It isn’t like the Spurs are trying to tank to get a higher draft pick or avoid a playoff match up, they are thinking what will help us win a championship. I will admit, I was looking forward to this game beforehand as well, and when I found out Parker, Duncan, Ginobli, and Green would be resting it took a little excitement away; but 2 minutes later I remembered Pop did this last year, and they almost made it to the Finals doing exactly this. If anything, after Dictator Stern’s comments, I was more interested in the game, and I became a cheerleader for the Spurs last night.

    And as a Bulls fan I think of all of the games Rose played last year not being 100%. He would play a few games, then sit a few games because he wasn’t healed yet from his injury, or a new injury would pop up. I’m not saying this is why he tore is ACL, but it couldn’t have helped. As long as you put yourself in position of being a top 4 playoff seed it doesn’t matter who you rest and when you rest them. And maybe more teams should help out their aging vets this way, and help out their players who are not quite 100% yet. I think every Bulls game about Derrick Rose and about every possible factor that lead to his injury. I would have gladly given up seeing him in 5-10 more regular season games last year if it meant him being 100% going into the playoffs, which every close observer to the Bulls knows he wasn’t last year. I love Coach Thibs, and I know Rose wanted to play, but maybe if Popovich is coaching the Bulls last year Rose never tears his ACL.

    Yes, Rose’s situation and the Spurs last night are apples and oranges, but Pop’s thinking shows he sees the Endgame, he realizes one regular season game forfeit is similar to sacrificing a pawn. Popovich has his mind set on capturing the King in the long-run, and the King was not going to be dethroned last night.

  4. Lucas says

    Always liked Rosen’s game breakdowns at Foxsports.com. Any chance we’ll see those return here? Rarely see NBA writers dissect a game like that.

  5. anon says

    Too bad you’re hiding your best new writer’s content behind multiple pages in a silly chase for pageviews and advertising dollars. Nothing makes me want to leave the article more than seeing a “Next Page” link at the bottom. Oh well! I’m sure the other pages were probably good..

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