David Stern is making his last stand as league commissioner one for the books. After San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sent home Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green on Thursday night on the tail end of an unusually long and tough road trip, Stern struck back with his own brand of justice.
The Spurs are being fined $250,000, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
The NBA following was shocked last night when Stern announced that substantial sanctions would be forthcoming for Coach Pop's actions. With San Antonio in South Beach to take on the Miami Heat, Stern felt the team was cheating the league out of a game that would be a marquee matchup of talent vs. teamwork.
He was dead wrong.
The Spurs' band of misfits had the lead going into the final minute and left town losers by a 105-100 score. If not for a late Ray Allen three-pointer, this decision could look even more like a personal vendetta on the Spurs' part for sabotaging TV ratings.
Stern likely felt the defending champions would wipe the floor with San Antonio in the midst of a long road trip, but Popovich's team further proved that depth and cohesiveness continue to outweigh talent alone.
CBS Sports' Ken Berger helped break the news that Stern is indeed thinking about the monetary side of the decision to send four of the team's best players back to San Antonio.
Stern notes it was "the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami."— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) November 30, 2012
That brand of thinking proves that Stern is more concerned with outward appearances than competitive basketball games. For years the Spurs have been a benchmark of success, winning four championships since 1999 and boasting talent that has been a mainstay over the past decade.
They haven't, however, been a fan favorite from a television ratings standpoint. Despite being to three NBA Finals in the 2000s, all three were the lowest-rated series of the decade. The 6.2 Nielsen rating in the 2007 Finals is the lowest of all time—even with LeBron James and the Cavs as the opponent.
The small-market vibe and different style of play has left the Spurs on the commissioner's naughty list. As Wojnarowski reported earlier Friday in his editorial view of the decision to sanction the Spurs, this isn't the first time he's been dissatisfied with the team's view on how to market basketball to the masses.
They don't forget how one of Stern's top public-relations officials went out of her way to try to dissuade an NBA team owner from hiring a well-regarded Spurs executive as general manager...[Or] how Stern wanted to infiltrate the inner sanctum of the Spurs with TV cameras and microphones, with the kind of phony, superficial behind-the-scenes access that went against how the franchise conducted its basketball business and kept its edge.
In any event, the backlash from this decision could be the final remembrance of Stern as he prepares to exit his post for good in 2014.
What do you think about the decision to fine the Spurs? $250,000 isn't a substantial amount of money to a large-market team, but for San Antonio, it's a clear shot below the belt. By comparison, it's the same amount of money Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined for inappropriate comments in 2006.
Stern is sending a message to teams on national television: The best-of-the-best should be on the court.
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