SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs have been a model of consistency in the Tim Duncan era, but have struggle this season to put a complete game together.
The parallels are faint. Carmelo Anthony sat out after slicing a finger that required five stitches in Charlotte on Wednesday night, whereas Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent four-fifths of his starting lineup home with no associated injuries.
But just as the absences of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were supposed to produce a lopsided home win for Miami devoid of drama, Anthony in street clothes seemed to diminish much of the allure of the Knicks-Heat matchup going in because how many solid conclusions can you take away from a game that isn’t really a fair fight?
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks and Spurs are similar in many ways. They have many veterans, play unselfishly and get after it on defense. They are both very efficient offensively and only have four losses this season.
But what the Knicks haven’t done yet is send their star players home just to get some rest. That’s what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and even Danny Green to do before his team faced the Heat Thursday night in Miami.
So David Stern didn’t like San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich resting four of his starters — three of them superstars in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili — against the superstar-laden Miami Heat on Thursday. Get in line.
The Spurs players, superstars included, probably didn’t like it. Players want to play, always. Ask Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who routinely plays his men past the point of exhaustion, and once fielded center Omer Asik even as the former Bulls was suffering through a broken fibula.
A great many Spurs fans, anxious as the team attempts to make the NBA Finals this June for what will be the first time in six years, wanted their stars to suit up. Once again San Antonio looks like contenders, and a road pairing against the defending champs can go a long way toward wondering if your team is going to mean much in June.
In June. In JUNE. There are 25 shopping days left until Christmas, and yet Tim Duncan is expected to be daisy fresh for what could be a deciding Game 7 some 200-plus days from now.
If David Stern, who has threatened “substantial sanctions” against the Spurs for sitting their starters on Thursday, wants this sort of thing to go away? Then make 20 games off of the NBA’s schedule go away. Make inter-conference battles go away. Make a potential 27-game postseason run to lead up to Game 7 of the Finals go away. Make international play during the exhibition season go away.
Make all the things that make David Stern and his owners untold millions go away. Once you’ve locked the players out and cost the thousandaire-set that makes your league hum night in and night out millions of unreported dollars between the lockout stages of July to December of 2011, of course.
A funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable whitewashing that we were sure would follow San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to send four starters back to Texas early rather than face the Miami Heat at full strength on Thursday night. Instead of a stem-to-stern demolition born out of the talent imbalance between a Heat team with its three marquee names (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) ready to go and a Spurs side without its three signature stars (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, plus rising young swingman Danny Green), the fans in the stands at the AmericanAirlines Arena and watching at home on TNT saw an exciting, competitive, nip-and-tuck contest that went down to the wire.
If San Antonio was punting on the nationally televised matchup — as many seem to think they were, including NBA Commissioner David Stern, who before the game called Popovich’s roster manipulation “unacceptable” and promised “substantial sanctions” for the Spurs — it seemed no one told the Spurs, who rode big nights from the likes of guard Gary Neal (20 points and seven assists, albeit on 7-for-20 shooting and with six turnovers, off the bench), center Tiago Splitter (18 points, nine rebounds, two assists) and rookie Nando De Colo (15 points, six rebounds, five assists and five turnovers in the most significant action of his young career) to a seven-point lead with five minutes remaining. Miami, however, clawed back late behind the rim-attacking of James and Wade, and with 40 seconds remaining, trailed by a lone point, 98-97.
Mr. Allen, please pick up the red courtesy phone:
(Reuters) – NBA Commissioner David Stern has vowed to punish the San Antonio Spurs for sending Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home early rather than play in Miami on Thursday against NBA champion Heat. With the second-placed Spurs (13-3) set to take on Southwest Division leading Memphis (11-2) in San Antonio on Saturday, coach Gregg Popovich decided his group of veterans could use an extra day of rest at home after their hectic road stretch. …
Nov 29 (Reuters) – NBA Commissioner David Stern has vowed to punish the San Antonio Spurs for sending Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home early rather than play in Miami on Thursday against NBA champion Heat. With the second-placed Spurs (13-3) set to take on Southwest Division leading Memphis (11-2) in San Antonio on Saturday, coach Gregg Popovich decided his group of veterans could use an extra day of rest at home after their hectic road stretch. …
Here’s how it tends to work: The NBA jams as much basketball as it possibly can into our eyes and ears on Wednesday nights, putting two-thirds of the league or more to work and giving League Pass junkies a solid six to seven hours of roundball-related stimulation between tipoff on the East Coast and the final buzzer out west. Then, after we’ve recovered a bit, we’re served up a nice, easy-to-digest slate on Thursday nights featuring only two or three games, and headlined by the weekly TNT double-header that features a marquee matchup for prime-time Eastern audiences followed by an exciting Western Conference pairing designed to keep you awake, entranced and ready for the comedy stylings of the “Inside the NBA” crew’s postgame show.
It’s a good, manageable formula, provided the headline games are interesting, and with a clash of the titans between the defending NBA champion Miami Heat and Western Conference finalist San Antonio Spurs — two teams that have combined to win 23 games this season and lose just six — batting leadoff, this Thursday night’s slate sure seemed to fit the bill.
There’s just one problem: The reigning Coach of the Year doesn’t seem to care much about the formula. From Spurs beat man Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News :
It appears Gregg Popovich has done it again.
With the road miles piling up on his veteran team, the Spurs coach has dispatched four of his top five leading scorers home to San Antonio [...] Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green did not travel with the team after Wednesday night’s win in Orlando, instead heading back to South Texas this morning for an extra day of rest leading up to Saturday’s sure-to-be-rugged home game against Memphis.
The four were spotted on a Southwest flight making a pre-lunch escape from central Florida.
How much Nando De Colo, Patty Mills and James Anderson were you itching to see tonight? Did you answer, “Tons?” Well, then, lucky you!