Let's see here, the NBA gives the Spurs a schedule of 6 road games in 9 days on the east coast.
They pull off a 5-1 record in that schedule which included a double overtime game. And now they start a home stand with their best players well rested with a good chance of being 9-1 in the last 10 games if they win all three of their very winnable games at home.
Could Pop have rested Ducan, Ginobili and Parker against Orlando? He could but they would still be on the road rather than at home spending time with their families unwinding. And the reserves could very well have lost to Orlando and then the starters could have lost to Miami and then a tired team coming off a brutal road trip would go up against Memphis. So he would have gone 0-2 against Orlando and Miami and then had a tired team against Memphis. Would there be such a hooplah had Pop rested the big three against Orlando? No one would care. He has done it before and no sanctions were handed out.
But isn't it better to take the easier win against Orlando and be well rested for Memphis. All wins count the same, don't they?
The questions Pop decision raises against the NBA:
1.) The Schedule
Let's face it, 82 games in a season is too long. Many a time have we seen teams mail-it-in on the second night of a back to back. But yeah somehow we are supposed to believe that it's better to have a tired Duncan on the floor not bringing it. If the NBA really cares about it's nationally televised game, then may be it should make sure both teams come into said televised game well rested. Spurs were handicapped for this match anyway, playing 6th game in 9 days whereas the Heat were coming off a two day rest.
Or better yet how about having fewer games in the season so there can be more rest days in between. If you are so concerned about the quality of the product, then do something productive about increasing the quality rather than handing out sanctions.
2.) Quality of competition
For all the ridiculous notions of parity, being very honest good teams like the Spurs, Heat, OKC etc have about 40 games on their schedule which they are gonna win if they really tried. The rest are against quality teams which could go either way depending on schedule and injuries.
Does it not make more sense to pick and choose among those remaining games about 15 that have ****ed by the schedule and let them go. It gives a team a better shot at the remaining games. And good teams can do this because frankly there a lot of teams out there which are just terrible,. Well coached professional teams can just show up in places like Washington, Charlotte, Orlando, Toronto, New Orleans, Phoenix, Cleveland etc and pick wins. Every win counts the same and a win against Orlando is the same as a win against at the end of the season.
Pop is just clever enough to use that to his advantage. You can't sanction coaches when 1/3 of your league puts up a poor product night in night out and you reward them with the most talented player coming through.
3. Who is Pop held responsible to? Miami fans or San Antonio fans?
NBA cuts his team a ridiculous schedule. Is he supposed to be more concerned about putting up a show in Miami and then running out a bunch of tired old geezers in San Antonio. Isn't he supposed to save his teams best for when they are at home in front of their own fans?
This isn't a decision against the spirit of the game. This wasn't tanking. This was Pop living and coaching in the reality of the situations put in front of him by the NBA. Isn't that his job? Is he a promoter or a coach? A marketing guy or a basketball guy?
They say the fans are cheated, they paid good money to see these guys play. Well ask the NBA to give it back. They created this schedule. They created a situation in which a team was playing it's 4th game in 5 days against a team coming off two days of rest. The NBA created a no-win situation for Pop. And when he surrendered to the situation they are gonna sanction him.