Spurs fined $50k for breaking NBA procedure. Good for them.

The Spurs will do whatever they need to in order to win an NBA Championship. The desire to win starts from the suits (coaches, GM, owner) on the roster and trickles down. Does that sound like a team you’d like to be a part of? Does it remind you of any historical NBA franchises like the Celtics of the Garden or Jabbar/Johnson’s Lakers?

Contrary to what Suns fans feel, the Spurs aren’t above reprieve from the NBA Comissioner’s office.

On Monday, only 3 members of the Spurs showed up to a shoot around and media session prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, when league rules clearly state that the whole team must show up to the practice arena. The Spurs were then fined $50,000. That comes out of the owners back pocket. $50 grand. That’s a large chunk of money out of an individual’s bank account. You could buy a new BMW with that money, for instance. Yet, Phoenix fans and the rest of America are probably even more irate to know that the Spurs see the fine as a sound investment.

Greg Popovich definately knew that his team would get fined when he encouraged his team to not show up to the practice and media coverage. He wanted them to get as much rest as possible in between games 1 and 2. He fully understood that instructing his team to rest and to miss the media session would get his owner fined. He didn’t care. $50,000 is a small price to pay for a trip to the NBA Finals, and I’m sure the Spurs owner agrees. Popovich wanted his team as rested as they could be for Game 2 for good reason, considering that last year the Spurs lost a Game 2 and went on to lose a 7 game series to the Mavericks, which Popovich felt was caused by poor scheduling by the NBA and too-little rest for his team in between the 2nd round and 3rd round series of 2006.

So basically, Popavich wanted to do everything he could, including blatantly breaking NBA procedure, to give his franchise the biggest possible advantage in order to help them advance to the 2007 Finals. By the way, this is the same coach that put 6′ 9″ 220 lb. Robert Horry into Game 3 of the Spurs vs. Suns series just 1:15 before Horry body checked Steve Nash right in front of the Suns bench. Popovich, it is rumored, specifically told his bench “not to move for the rest of the game no matter what happened” just before putting Horry in the game. Coincidental? Or did Popovich send Horry in specifically to bait the Suns players into leaving the bench, hoping that the NBA would suspend one or more of them for a game? Greg Popovich is a smart man, that’s all I ‘ll say. He’s not dumb. It sounds to me like Greg Popovich knows the NBA rulebook very well, and has the NBA Commisioner’s office on a string. And I’m OK with that, if you’re an NBA coach trying to make your team competitive by any means necessary, then cheap wins still count as wins as long as you’re playing by the rules. Popovich is playing by the rules and simply finding huge, gaping loopholes in the NBA Comissioner’s office to exploit. When it comes to cheap shots on the basketball court, please remember that the NBA is an entertainment industry, it’s a business that makes money on entertaining fans, and sending Nash into the scorer’s table to try and gain an edge in the NBA playoffs, basketballs biggest arena, is just different than body checking someone in the NCAA or even 5A high school basketball. I’m not condoning foul play in sports, but I am encouraging competitive creativity in the NBA. (As for Robert Horry, don’t hate him. He just did his job. He’s arguably the most professional role player in NBA history, so show him some respect. He’s not historically a jerk, and from what it looks like here, it’s just another case of him doing what he was told and whatever it takes to get himself another Finals ring. We need more of that in the NBA, not less.)

Remember when Red Auerbach used similar exploits to turn Boston basketball into an institution between 1960 and 1990? C’mon people, may I remind you that he used a cheap, frowned upon loophole to draft Larry Bird a year prior to when Bird was even avaible to NBA teams? Larry Bird.

If you weren’t alive in 1978 (like me) let me give you the skinny on one of the reasons why people consider Red Auerbach the greatest coach/GM of all time: In May of 1978, Larry Bird had not declared himself eligible for the 1978 NBA draft, and was still seriously considering playing his senior season at Indiana University. In the first round of the 1978 draft, Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics selected Larry Bird 6th overall, still without Bird even entering the draft at all. Bird subsequently decided to play his senior year at IU, but the Celtics retained rights to Bird until Bird graduated in 1979. Think about that. We’re not talking about teaching your team to flop to get calls going their way, which is a small thing, we’re talking about unfairly drafting a Hall Of Fame player ahead of all the other NBA teams that would have been able to get Bird. By the way, the first 5 overall in the NBA draft by the Blazers, Kings, Pacers, Knicks, and Warriors respectively were Mychal Thompson (C), Phil Ford (PG), Rick Robey (C), Micheal Ray Richardson (SG), and Purvis Short (SF). These players that obviously had no impact on their teams were drafted in front of Larry Bird, not because the GM’s of those teams were shortsighted enough to overlook Bird, but because Red Auerbach knew it would be unfair to draft him, and did it anyways because he knew that NBA rules would allow it.

I just want that to sink in.

To help understand, I’ll make an analogy.

Red Auerbach drafting Larry Bird in the 1978 draft would have been similar to… say for example… the Houston Rockets that picked 8th in the 2006 NBA Draft last year aquiring rights to draft Greg Oden a full year before the 2006-2007 NCAA season that he lost the NCAA Championship to Florida. Based on a loophole. Oh, and Oden would also have to go on to become a 3 time MVP and 2 time Finals MVP en route to winning three NBA Championships in 5 Finals appearances. If he did that he’d have the same impact on NBA history that Bird did. If the Rockets would have drafted Oden last year and all of this transpired, the entire western world would stop moving.

Greg Popovich and the Spurs (that most of America hate because of their “cheap/dirty” competitive play) have a lot in common with Red Auerbach and the Boston Celtics of yesteryear. Obviously, Popovich isn’t a GM finding loopholes like Red Auerbach was in the Bird case. He’s a coach finding them so his competitive spirit will more likely come out in the minute-to-minute action of Playoff games (as we’ve seen this year). But Popovich does everything that’s in his power as an NBA coach to get his team to the NBA Finals and win a Championship every single year (which you would think is the ultimate goal of every NBA coach. But it’s not, just look around the league. For most NBA coaches, keeping their job is the first priority on their plate, which just isn’t the same thing as having a desire to win).

I shudder to imagine what Mark Cuban and Greg Popovich could be like if Cuban owned the Spurs instead of the Mavs.

I’m telling you, the Spurs are getting a bum rap this year, because it looks to me like it’s exactly this kind of hard-nosed, competitive spirit that 95% of the NBA’s games lack right now. I think that when compared to the NBA of 1970-1995, lack of competition poses the biggest threat to NBA viability in worldwide sports.

And if that’s the problem, then the San Antonio Spurs look like the solution, whether you like them or not.
If I’m right, and Greg Popovich and the Spurs are comparable to Red Auerbach and the Celtics, then isn’t that a good reason to go see a basketball game?

Get San Antonio Spurs tickets from us, or call me at (800) 519-2592 and tell me what you think about Greg Popovich and the Spurs.

-Adam

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