According 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.