Earlier this afternoon, Gregg Popovich decided to bench his best players for tonight’s game against the Miami Heat. Pop is well-known for pulling such moves, although he tends to do it on the Spurs’ home floor, and only for non-marquee games. Thursday night TNT showdowns in Miami fit neither of those criteria. Pop trotted out a starting lineup consisting of Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills and Nando de Colo for the nationally televised game, and at the league office, the decision went over about as well as Styx at Texxas Jam ’83.
Commissioner David Stern wasted no time firing back, first apologizing to fans, followed by a declaration that “substantial sanctions” are headed in the Spurs’ direction. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that Pop violated league rules by sending healthy players home early from a road trip. And, for those wondering if Stern has the power to fine teams for resting players, there is precedent under his regime. The league fined Pat Riley’s Lakers in 1985 and 1990 for resting players — thanks to Fox Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt for grave digging that little tidbit — which means Stern will almost certainly be collecting some game checks from the Spurs organization.