What’s the difference in resting your star players and just flat out throwing a game? One you’re flat out announcing your doing it while the other is typically hidden. I guess the former is better than the latter or is it?
Resting players late in the season is not an uncommon practice in sports but you might as well say what San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich did Monday night against the Utah Jazz was putting the fix in. The Spurs “Big Three” didn’t even make the trip to Salt Lake City as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all stayed back home due to playing the night before against Utah. So even though the Spurs were just percentage points ahead of Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference Popovich decided to essentially give the game to the Jazz. Now of course it took the Jazz, legitimately short-handed due to injuries, to the fourth quarter to win it but you have to think the result would have been different if the Spurs varsity team actually played.
Before the game the veteran Spurs coach gave the following explanation.
“We’re trying to survive. It’s pretty much a no-brainer, if you look at our schedule.”
In my opinion this is wrong on all accounts for four reasons:
1. The Fans are cheated. While I’m sure many Jazz fans are happy for the result as they cling hope to their team still making the playoffs you also have to think there was a contingent that paid their hard earned money to see the real Spurs in action. And what about the Spurs fans hoping their team gets the top spot in the playoffs? They clearly didn’t matter either.
2. Makes a mockery of the playoff race. It’s one thing to rest players when you have everything wrapped up but it’s quite another when your still playing for the top seed which obviously means home court advantage throughout the playoffs. With the Spurs losing and the Thunder topping the Bucks–OKC moves to the top spot. And what about the teams fighting with the Jazz to make the playoffs? Fortunately (or unfortunately if you’re a Jazz fan) Denver, Houston and Phoenix all won so it didn’t matter but it definitely could of if either would have lost.
3. Makes a mockery of the league. The NBA gets a bad rap as it is for teams cashing it in at times when playing back-to-back’s due to being “tired.” When you blatantly rest your best players in a game that means something you are essentially thumbing your nose at the league and it’s fans that you don’t care. It’s one thing if your team is terrible and losing games–at least they are trying to get better by improving their draft odds in the lottery. It’s quite another when it’s one of the NBA’s best teams with first place on the line.
4. The gambling element. By no means am I expert in sports betting but I can imagine this throws Vegas for a loop when something like this occurs. And while I’m sure Popovich isn’t influenced by this but for a league that in recent years has had to deal with a gambling NBA official in Tim Donaghy you don’t want to raise any further suspicions.
Now of course none of the above matters to the almighty Popovich who believes he did the right thing by preserving his veterans legs and maybe in the end he’ll be right. But here’s one person that’s hoping this unethical move costs his team down the line. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspends coaches (i.e. Sean Payton) for hurting the integrity of his sport. Too bad NBA commissioner David Stern won’t do the same.