Gregg Popovich wasn’t happy about playing four road games in five nights and didn't seem to care about his team's five-game winning streak, so he decided to make a statement to David Stern and the NBA by sending starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home yesterday. That meant the Spurs would bring a skeleton crew to Miami for a nationally televised game against the LeBron James and the Heat, drawing the ire of the commissioner and embarrassing the league. Had Popovich done this on a busy Wednesday against the Wizards, it likely would have been half the story it was. But Pop chose the NBA’s biggest stage – TNT on Thursday on a two-game night – and will take some sort of hit from Stern for his arrogance. In terms of fantasy, it was yet another cheap shot to the owners of Duncan, who is playing very well this season, Ginobili, coming off his best game of the year, and Parker, who had scored 30-plus in two of his last four games.
I get that Popovich wants to win in May, and doesn’t really care about games this early in the season, but there are other ways to go about resting your older players. At least pretending to play along with the unwritten rules of the game would have made Stern happy. But Pop making his move when the Spurs-Heat was essentially the only game in town (nice win, Falcons) was basically the equivalent of your kid flipping you the bird as he walks out the door to pick up his girlfriend in your car, using your gas. And Stern aired his grievance with Pop in the following statement prior to last night’s game.
“I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
As a fantasy owner, it’s infuriating to deal with guys who play for Popovich and Scott Skiles, as those coaches have their own agendas and pretty much get off on marching to the beat of their own drummer. Maybe Stern’s penalty will be to require Popovich to do more halftime interviews, but I’m curious as to where he was when Pop listed Duncan as a ‘DNP-OLD’ last season. And how Charles Barkley was allowed to interview Pop last night, but not ask him about sending his stars home is beyond me.
As for the game, the Spurs D-League team showed up and put up an admirable fight, led by Gary Neal’s 20 points, seven dimes and six turnovers, while Tiago Splitter (18 points), Nando De Colo (15), Boris Diaw (12) and Matt Bonner (10) all made a splash for Pop. Neal is actually on fire right now, averaging 17 points over his last three games, but because he plays for Pop and the Spurs, you never know if he’s going to be in the starting lineup or in street clothes.
The Heat hung on to get the win and David Stern is thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t make his “substantial sanctions” speech on a night the Champs fell to Pop’s bench. They got 23 points, nine boards and seven assists from LeBron James in ‘just another day at the office,’ while Chris Bosh double-doubled, Ray Allen exploded for 20 points despite a sore back and Dwyane Wade chipped in with 19 points, five boards and five assists.
In the late game, Stephen Curry had 20 points and 10 assists as he continues to defy the odds and play well on his fragile ankle, while David Lee went off for 31 points, nine boards, six dimes, a steal and a blocked shot, while hitting 13-of-15 shots from the floor. Klay Thompson finally showed up for his fantasy owners, draining 10-of-19 shots for 21 points and nine boards, but hit just one 3-pointer. Thompson hasn’t been fun to own up to this point, but last night is a good sign that he might be ready to right the ship. Jarrett Jack had 18 points, five assists and three 3-pointers off the bench, and is finally starting to come on for the Warriors. He missed all seven of his shots and scored one point on Saturday, but scored 17 on Friday night.
The Warriors held on for a one-point win against the Nuggets, who saw six players score in double digits. Andre Iguodala led the way with 22 points, four boards, four assists and two 3-poiners, Danilo Gallinari actually hit 6-of-12 shots and three 3-pointers for 20 points and nine boards, while Ty Lawson came through with 17 points, nine assists, four steals and two 3-pointers in the loss. Kenneth Faried quietly posted a beastly line with 10 points, seven boards and a career-best five blocks.
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