An Interactive Sports Experience



May 30, 2014

The decision by Gregg Popovich  to rest his stars in an early season road game against the Miami Heat was a costly one indeed, but one that will pay dividends close to 20 months later.   The $250,000 levied by then commissioner David Stern against Popovich for doing a disservice to the league and its fans was a punishment hastily accepted by the brazen coach.  But haste is an understatement if you were to ask one of the many members of the media who have questioned Popovich before, during or after games.  It is this rigidity, first with his players, and then the media, that have not only led the Spurs franchise to one the greatest on court resurgences in recent history, but will lead them to their first NBA championship since 2007. 

Popovich’s seemingly no nonsense way of life has been the driving force behind the Spurs success for the last 3 season.  Unlike most offenders whose fines grow with each offense, Popovich identified the bench mark almost 2 years ago by maxing out to the tune of 250K.  Since then not much has changed.  Popovich’s ability to handle the media while resting aging stars like Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili throughout the course of the season should not go unnoticed.  With Parker, Ginobili and Green each playing 68 games and Duncan playing in 74, the Spurs who still managed to lock up a number one seed in the regular season look young and have gotten better throughout the playoffs.

Contrast that with the Miami Heat who have looked slow, disinterested at times and appear to be one Dwayne Wade balky knee away from making a quiet exit from this year’s playoffs.  The trendy pick to three peat with arguably the best player in the NBA in Lebron James has struggled with a dysfunctional Indiana team.  Some are quick to credit James robust stat sheet in games two and three with leading Miami to a 2-1 lead in the series, but the Heat’s victories should be attributed to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, unless of course it was James who made the decision to put Norris Cole on Lance Stephenson in game 2.  Cole who saw his minutes increase from under thirteen in game 1 to over thirty-three in game 3 partnered with Chris Anderson  (eighteen minutes to twenty-eight minutes) defensively to neutralize the play of both Stevenson and George.  Yes, Paul George has been playing in this series, and decided to show up in a big way in game 5.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to score, when you don’t have to worry about guarding Lebron James for half the game, and if you were looking for Chris Anderson he was out, further supporting Spoelstra’s decision to give Birdman increased minutes.  As difficult as it is for Heat fan, recognizing Spoelstra’s coaching adjustments if the Heat move on, is a necessity.

As the momentum in the Western Conference has now shifted back to the Spurs, there is unquestionably some nervous reporter tasked with the responsibility of asking Gregg Popovich about the game.  You can feel his condescending glare and listening to the sound bite will be unnerving no doubt, but no rest assured, the Spurs will be primed to handle this top heavy OKC offense in preparation for a much more balanced Miami attack.  How can you be so sure?  Popovich himself has $250,000 invested on it.

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