AL HAMNIK: Popovich wins his PR battle with King David

2012-12-01T17:00:00Z 2012-12-20T20:10:06Z AL HAMNIK: Popovich wins his PR battle with King DavidAl Hamnik Times Columnist
December 01, 2012 5:00 pm  • 

NBA Commissioner David Stern doesn't really know Gregg Popovich. And he's a bigger fool because of it.

Stern is all about the NBA's world-wide image, and the golden goose it has become on his 30-year watch.

The league generates $5 billion annually. The average player makes about $5 million. Stern loves hearing the cash register ring -- and now his league is $250,000 richer after the ridiculous fine he levied against Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.

Pop, a 1966 Merrillville grad destined for the Hall of Fame one day, created quite a fuss Thursday night in Miami when he sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green back to San Antonio and almost beat the Heat with nine reserves.

Stern became enraged, charging the Spurs should've given fans and TV partner TNT advance warning.

Gregg Popovich couldn't care less. His main concern has always been protecting the "team" and putting its well-being above everything else.

It's no secret. The Spurs' Big Three is old and Thursday's game was San Antonio's fourth in five nights of an unbeaten 11-game road trip.

They already were without Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard, both injured.

Several Heat players, including LeBron James, and even the TNT announcers agreed with Pop's move -- not that he needed their endorsement.

"If I was taking my 6-year-old son or daughter to the game, I'd want him or her to see everybody," Popovich said before tip-off. "So I understand that perspective.

"Hopefully, people will understand my perspective. My priority is my basketball team and what's best for it."

Popovich has an aging team that needs more time off than the NBA allows. Twice during the lockout schedule last season, he sacrificed 11-game winning streaks to rest his Big Three so they'd be fresh by playoff time.

Other NBA teams also do this, not as frequently as the Spurs, so it's not just Pop being a jerk.

"Perhaps it'll give us an opportunity to stay on the court with Memphis on Saturday night," he said. "Historically, when you're on a long road trip, the first game when you come home is really tough. And Memphis is one of the best teams in the league.

"They're of much more concern to us than playing four games in five nights. It's pretty logical."

National sentiment is behind Pop, who won't get into a hissing match with the boss. Let Stern, with all his arrogance, be the heavy.

King David was never a big Spurs' fan to begin with.

Though they have the best run organization in pro sports, they're too vanilla, too fundamental, not sexy enough, for Stern's liking come NBA Finals time.

Low TV ratings don't lie.

Know this as well: being a military guy, Pop isn't one to break rules. Sadly, King David, in all those years on the throne, never bothered to put established guidelines in place for his coaches to follow.

And now he, not the Spurs, is paying for it with bad press.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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