NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NBA Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday his $250,000 fine of the San Antonio Spurs was justified because the club went beyond what league owners agreed was a reasonable approach to resting healthy players.
Stern said coaches should have the authority to rest players at the end of the season, but that teams should not rest four starters little more than a month into it, and the team made matters worse by not notifying the league beforehand.
Last week, the Spurs sent home Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green before a game in Miami. Stern points out that Green is 26 and Parker 30, and that he doubted any of the players needed rest this early in the season in what was also their only visit to Miami.
"In the case of San Antonio, they didn't just come into town and rest healthy players, they sent a 26-year-old and a 30-year-old, plus Manu and Tim home virtually under cover of darkness ... and without notifying as our rules require for injury and illness," Stern said before watching the Hornets play the Los Angeles Lakers.
Stern said owners discussed resting healthy players at a meeting in April 2010, and that the Spurs would have remembered it.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich often rested healthy players last season after the lockout and there was no punishment, but Stern decided to act after this game, which was televised nationally by TNT.
"Maybe it's my mistake not to think that injury and illness when you're secreting someone away should also include deciding to move them out," Stern said. "So in all of the circumstances, I thought that if we didn't do something this time, there would never be a reason to do it.
"(It was the Spurs') only visit to Miami, practically the first month of the season. Notifying nobody and sending home young and healthy players merited a rebuke and I did it."
Stern said the punishment had nothing to do with his feelings about Popovich but solely the actions of the Spurs, who ignored NBA rules that teams must notify the league, opposing team and media when players won't travel because of injury.
They have not appealed the fine.
"This was a team decision," Stern said. "This was not me and Pop. Pop is a great coach, Hall of Fame coach, and this decision was made by the entire senior management of the San Antonio Spurs. And I felt that they were doing what they perceived as their job and I was doing what I presume as my job and that's what happens.
"I would suggest to you if we had been notified it wouldn't have happened, so maybe from their perspective they did the right thing."
Stern was making a regularly scheduled visit with first-year Hornets owner Tom Benson, who is also the owner of the NFL's Saints, to see how Benson's plans for the NBA franchise were taking shape. Stern visited Saints headquarters, where new construction has begun on additions that will also accommodate Hornets offices and practice courts.