FanDuel - WFBC

November 30, 2012

The San Antonio Spurs send some players home: Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich elects to send home Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to rest them from a long road stretch. This rendered them unavailable for Thursday night's game against the Miami Heat. NBA Commissioner David Stern took note of this and promised "substantial sanctions will be forthcoming." The Heat won 105-100.

posted by NerfballPro to basketball at 11:45 AM - 51 comments

Duncan, T. -- DNP (Commissioner's Decision)

posted by Rock Steady at 12:00 PM on November 30

One of the bottom teams in the EPL was fined for doing something similar but the manager said look, the team have only a chance of winning so many games and Man United aren't one of them.

But Stern shouldn't think that older players are going to do these longer road swings the same as youngsters and I don't see how how Spurs should be penalized for recognizing that reality, especially when they only lost by five points. Winning on the road against the Heat is a low probability for any team, Stern should've made sure this game wasn't at the tail end of a long road trip if he wanted a marquee matchup.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:07 PM on November 30

But Stern shouldn't think that older players are going to do these longer road swings the same as youngsters and I don't see how how Spurs should be penalized for recognizing that reality, especially when they only lost by five points.

If they can't hack the demands of the NBA season, which includes the occasional longer road swing, should they be playing in the NBA?

From the standpoint of the commissioner, people mostly come to NBA games to see big-name players and competitive games (in varying order). Voluntarily sending home three of your big names against the defending champions is bad for both of these.

posted by Etrigan at 12:25 PM on November 30

Stern needs to turn his back on the golf ball and anchor his belly putter in the best possible location.

posted by beaverboard at 12:36 PM on November 30

Would the commissioner have his knickers in a twist if the 4 players had sat on the bench for the game and not played?

San Antonio loses a game by 5, and David Stern is concerned.

Oklahoma City destroys Charlotte by 45, and nary a peep from Stern.

Shut the fuck up, David.

posted by tommytrump at 12:54 PM on November 30

If they can't hack the demands of the NBA season, which includes the occasional longer road swing, should they be playing in the NBA?

Who's to say they can't? If resting them for some relatively unimportant games now means the team will do better than they would otherwise, why does the commissioner need to get involved? It's not like Pop did it to annoy Stern. One assumes he did it to maximize the overall result, which is what he gets paid for and what fans of the Spurs care about. David Stern can't retire soon enough. I wonder if Mike Illitch will let Stern be the new pizza mascot.

posted by yerfatma at 01:19 PM on November 30

If they can't hack the demands of the NBA season, which includes the occasional longer road swing, should they be playing in the NBA?

Who's to say they can't? If resting them for some relatively unimportant games now means the team will do better than they would otherwise, why does the commissioner need to get involved?

A game in week four is "relatively unimportant"? That's an argument that can be had, but not from the angle of "these guys are tired and need to get some rest." Did they charge a relatively unimportant amount for tickets to this relatively unimportant game between the defending NBA champions and the regular-season Western Conference champions? Of course not, because people will pony up for a game with James, Wade and Bosh on one side and Parker, Duncan and Ginobli on the other. It's not good for the NBA if fans have to start asking, "Will the real team bother to show up?" in November. It's one thing once you've clinched the playoffs and everyone expects you to rest the stars, but exposing the regular season as bullshit isn't good for the game.

I don't like David Stern either, but that doesn't mean that everything he does is automatically bad. This was a dick move by the Spurs and should be sanctioned to some extent (probably less than what Stern's going to do).

posted by Etrigan at 01:48 PM on November 30

I don't like David Stern either, but that doesn't mean that everything he does is automatically bad. This was a dick move by the Spurs and should be sanctioned to some extent (probably less than what Stern's going to do).

I'm going to agree with this.

If I paid big bucks to see the Heat vs Spurs, and only one of the teams showed up to play, I'd be pissed.

The fans should get some money back, equal to the difference between pre-season game ticket prices and regular season game ticket prices.

posted by grum@work at 02:08 PM on November 30

If those three guys had caught a stomach bug and sat out the game, would the fans deserve a refund?

Sounds like they saw a high-scoring, close game. Isn't that what they paid for?

posted by Hugh Janus at 02:12 PM on November 30

If those three guys had caught a stomach bug and sat the game out, would the fans deserve a refund?

No. But neither would your aunt be your uncle, if she had balls.

Sounds like they saw a high-scoring, close game. Isn't that what they paid for?

Some of them probably did, yes. Some of them probably paid to see James, Wade and Bosh play Parker, Duncan and Ginobili. Most of the NBA advertising I see is a lot heavier on the players than the scores or the margins.

posted by Etrigan at 02:16 PM on November 30

If those three guys had caught a stomach bug and sat out the game, would the fans deserve a refund?

Nope. But that's not what happened here.

Sounds like they saw a high-scoring, close game. Isn't that what they paid for?

How about none of the NBA players participated, and instead it was a high-scoring D-League game instead? By your logic, that would be acceptable.

posted by grum@work at 02:22 PM on November 30

It should be noted that Stern made the announcement concerning the sanctions before the game was played. Not that it matters: some will buy the ticket to see the stars play; I might be a little pissed if I actually went to the game, but I would've seen quite a game if the Heat had to bust serious ass to beat a bunch of tired-out second stringers by just 5 points. There's no guarantee what you'll see when you buy a ticket.

posted by NerfballPro at 02:26 PM on November 30

Did they charge a relatively unimportant amount for tickets to this relatively unimportant game between the defending NBA champions and the regular-season Western Conference champions?

Totally a fair point. But where do you draw the line on something like that? If it's a matchup of last year's #3 seeds in each conference? What if one of the teams has traded a bunch of players away. The real kick in the pants from Stern's perspective is it wound up still being a good game.

posted by yerfatma at 02:32 PM on November 30

No. But neither would your aunt be your uncle, if she had balls. and Nope. But that's not what happened here.

Sounds like the answer is the next time he wants to give his stars a rest, Popovich should say he sent them home because they had a stomach bug. Problem solved.

How about none of the NBA players participated, and instead it was a high-scoring D-League game instead? By your logic, that would be acceptable.

Nope. But that's not what happened here.

See how that works? It's bullshit all the way down.

posted by Hugh Janus at 02:36 PM on November 30

Did they charge a relatively unimportant amount for tickets to this relatively unimportant game between the defending NBA champions and the regular-season Western Conference champions?

Totally a fair point. But where do you draw the line on something like that? If it's a matchup of last year's #3 seeds in each conference? What if one of the teams has traded a bunch of players away.

Well, yeah. The Bobcats can't charge as much for a game against the Hornets as the Heat can charge for a game against the Spurs. That's basic sports economics -- teams that suck advertise "See the All-Stars!" with a bunch of pictures of players on other teams, because they know that people in Charlotte will pay more to see Lebron James than they'll pay to see the Bobcats play the Hornets -- or the Heat, if James isn't bothering to travel because he's tired.

Sounds like the answer is the next time he wants to give his stars a rest, Popovich should say he sent them home because they had a stomach bug. Problem solved.

I'd say that the next time he wants to give his stars a rest, Popovich should ask himself who pays their and his salaries.

posted by Etrigan at 02:59 PM on November 30

I think this write-up about the situation by Henry Abbott makes some good points and is well worth a read.

posted by holden at 03:49 PM on November 30

How about none of the NBA players participated, and instead it was a high-scoring D-League game instead? By your logic, that would be acceptable.

Nope. But that's not what happened here.

See how that works? It's bullshit all the way down.

You were the one that suggested that because the game was high-scoring/interesting without the stars that it would have been acceptable to those that paid for the tickets.

It's not the same as replacing "I'm not playing my stars" with "My stars are sick". One is deliberately screwing over the fans, the other isn't. If SA wants to lie next time and say their stars are sick, they can go ahead and do that. Of course, if word gets out that they lied, they'll have an even bigger stink on their hands.

posted by grum@work at 03:53 PM on November 30

In football, this never happens short of injury (and even then...), because there are only 16 regular season games a year. In baseball however, this happens all the time- players sit out to rest, or even pitchers flying ahead early to the next city so they get a good night's sleep before their next start- to cope with the slog of a 162-game season. A player appearing in 160+ games is actually unusual; only 4 players in MLB last year appeared in 162 games, and only 14 in 160+.

Basketball is somewhere in the middle; they don't usually play 5+ days in a row, but each game is still far more physically challenging; there are half as many games as in MLB, but five times as many games as the NFL.

Me, I think the coach/team have the right to do whatever personnel moves they feel will make them successful for the season. I get that a nationally televised game ideally has the marquee stars... but Stern should not be meddling in day-to-day coaching, not to mention how ugly it would get if coaches were expected to manage not by their attempts to having a well-seeded playoff spot, but by the immediacy of TV ratings.

Plus, he's done this before, and it can be a smart move during the right part of a schedule, really: if he plays all his top stars they still probably win only 50% of the time against a team like the Heat, and having gone flat-out to try to win are then exhausted for the next couple of games. Alternately, he rests his older but still marquee players for a tough matchup, then has them fresh and energized against the next few opponents, who they promptly trounce at 80% effort. Winning a game against a top team, or when it's nationally televised, is still only worth one in the W column. As a coach/team, I'd rather go 5-1 than 4-2 or 3-3, and this kind of move might be the difference.

Really, that slimy corrupt toad Stern should butt out. If he's going to focus on sanctions for sportsmanship, he should be more concerned with those cases when, in the last month of a season, the cellar-dwelling teams start having some "questionable" losses in the race for a good draft pick. And while I hate to say it because they're my NBA team, I'm pretty sure the Celtics did this a few years ago when they were hoping to draft Kevin Durant with a top 2.

posted by hincandenza at 03:57 PM on November 30

It's bad PR to allow teams to keep healthy star players out of games. The fans at the game are cheated out of the players they have every reason to expect to see that night.

It also pisses off the sports books, which probably matters a lot more than fans realize.

The integrity of the game is damaged when a team intentionally puts an inferior lineup on the floor.

posted by rcade at 04:03 PM on November 30

I think this write-up about the situation by Henry Abbott makes some good points and is well worth a read.

Abbott makes some excellent points. I'd support a shorter NBA season (or at least one with fewer games) or a culture where there wasn't quite the emphasis on playing 48. After all, no one expects to see any individual NHL player (except a goalie) playing 60. But flat-out not playing your top three players -- a majority of the team that's on the court at any given moment -- is too much.

posted by Etrigan at 04:05 PM on November 30

The Spurs probably saw it as a game they'd probably lose, regardless of who was on the court, so this was a game to send the stars home and have an excuse for a loss. Otherwise it would seem logical the team would give their stars a vacation when they play the Wizards or someone similar. The fact the Spurs stil kept it close was interesting.

I agree with grum. People buy tickets based on a top matchup and get a big disappointment. That sucks and is something the league needs to avoid.

posted by dyams at 04:18 PM on November 30

Pretty good take-down of Stern (and his seemingly having it in for the Spurs) by Adrian Wojnarowski here.

Seems I may be in the minority here, but I believe what the Spurs did was well within their rights and, considering the success of (and near-universal acclaim for) the organization, am willing to believe they know best and that it was likely a smart decision.

posted by holden at 04:24 PM on November 30

One thing about this bothers me. I watched the Spurs play everyone (at least those who mattered) and put on a clinic in beating the Celtics in Boston. Now they go home and rest people while losing to Miami, a conference rival of Boston. This rather sounds like giving an unfair advantage to Miami, and I'd whine about it if I even slightly suspected it was intentional. The thing is that Boston has the same problem. Coach Rivers has a set schedule for playing his older players, and it does not matter too much what the impact on the outcome of the game might be. So far, not one peep from the league office.

If David Stern thinks the league should in any way dictate who plays and who doesn't in a game, then let the league appoint the coaches, pay them, and have a conference call before each game with the coaches of both teams involved in order to determine the lineups, minutes to be played, and substitution patterns. In other words, if you want the NBA to become even more of a sham than it already is, just keep talking, David.

The above is from a Celtics season ticket holder who believes the NBA deliberately favors some players and teams at the expense of others. The owners are guaranteed a profit, the players make their money, but the fans of the less favored teams are the ones deprived of the possibility of a championship. Please note that teams that are usually not competitive are periodically selected to achieve playoff status and success, just so things don't really appear to be rigged. The pattern repeats that those teams in the large TV markets succeed while those in the smaller markets do not. I hold season tickets because my son and I love basketball, and I have been a Celtics fan for nearly 60 years. I just wish the games were a little more fairly competed. Oh by the way, a 2-game suspension for Rondo after the brawl(?) in Boston is the equivalent letting him cop a plea for involuntary manslaughter after a gangland slaying. In other words, it's hardly fair, but favors one of the "rising stars" in the league. Anyway, this Celtics fan isn't complaining.

posted by Howard_T at 04:37 PM on November 30

I would absolutely agree that Stern is an asshole of the highest order, and that he has mollycoddled the big-market (and big-moneymaking) teams. However, at the same time, the NBA makes its money from the fans, and the fans have spoken as to whether they want to see sound fundamentals or big-name players. Not playing -- hell, not even having your three biggest names (plus Danny Green, who's really getting the "and the rest" treatment here) is not a good strategy for the success of the league and should, at the very least, have been handled differently by Popovich.

You can win as many games, even as many titles, as you like, but the fact of the matter is that a professional athlete is an entertainer, and one thing that an audience won't put up with is an entertainer not even trying.

posted by Etrigan at 04:40 PM on November 30

If anything, having the most NBA championships ever seems to indicate favorable treatment from the NBA.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 04:43 PM on November 30

Seems I may be in the minority here, but I believe what the Spurs did was well within their rights and, considering the success of (and near-universal acclaim for) the organization, am willing to believe they know best and that it was likely a smart decision.

I totally agree. If the NBA doesn't want teams to sit their stars occasionally they need to improve their scheduling. Poppovich's job is to try and win a champonship and if sitting players is the best way to do that he should be allowed to do it. It's Stern and the NBA's job to give the fans the best possible show and forcing a team to play 4 games in 5 nights is always going to result in poor basketball whether the stars play or not.

posted by tron7 at 04:48 PM on November 30

You were the one that blah blah blah

Sure I was. But I was not the one that started putting words in other people's mouths, nor was I the one who denied the validity of hypotheticals just before launching a hyperbolic one of my own. Nor did I start the third-grade "well you said" nonsense.

That's the all-the-way-down bullshit to which I referred, and I stand by that assessment.

It's all good, though. I came here looking for a discussion, and I guess you could call what we had a discussion. I didn't mean to push any of your buttons. If I upset you as much as your reaction implied, I regret it. I'm not really a fan.

posted by Hugh Janus at 06:06 PM on November 30

Definition of substantial sanctions: $250,000 fine levied against the organization. No fines or suspensions imposed on Popovich himself.

posted by NerfballPro at 06:31 PM on November 30

Which will have zero effect, since the Spurs are presumably (and that Abbott piece supports) very happy with their last decade of performance, results, player management, and the coaching of Popovich. Like they could give a crap about $250,000, even if it happened each time for the three or so games a year the Spurs do this. tron7 noted that Popovich's job is to try to win a championship, and certainly he's got credibility galore on his methods in the decade and a half he's been running that team. It makes sense too; the cumulative effects of recovering 99.5% each time you play is that you're at maybe 80% at the end of a long season- but if you get that extra day or two off when it counts, you can recharge almost fully.

So in the end, this is more useless sound and fury from Stern, basically an arbitrary tax on the Spurs, for no good reason.

posted by hincandenza at 08:23 PM on November 30

One thing I haven't heard anything about with this: Have the Spurs (or any other team) ever been warned not to do this in the past or been punished for doing so? If not, then this fine is bogus.

A few years ago in the NHL, there was a big uproar in the playoffs about Sean Avery just standing in front of Martin Brodeur during a 5-on-3 power play waving his arms and paying no attention to the play, merely trying to distract Brodeur. Technically, what Avery did wasn't against the rules, but a lot of people thought it was cheap. The NHL didn't suspend him or penalize him in any way, but they did immediately clarify/change the rules to say that if that happened again, a player could be penalized.

That's the way this should have been handled. I don't think it's fair to fine a coach or team for doing something that isn't against the rules, just because it happens to upset the commissioner. If you want to make it against the rules, so be it, but make it so before doling out punishment.

posted by TheQatarian at 10:06 PM on November 30

Sean Avery just standing in front of Martin Brodeur during a 5-on-3 power play waving his arms and paying no attention to the play, merely trying to distract Brodeur.

He also waved his stick in Brodeur's face, which is what got everyone upset.

I don't think it's fair to fine a coach or team for doing something that isn't against the rules

I looked through the NBA rules and there isn't a generic "no tanking" or "best of their abilities" rule in there. That's kind of interesting.

posted by grum@work at 12:23 AM on December 01

Popovich is a great coach and knows his team. He's got guys that are 8 years past their prime and still winning with them. He sat the guys because he felt it necessary, not to snub Stern or the league.

It should be noted that this gave some playing time against a tough opponent to guys who don't normally see the court, and they were very competitive.

Stern ought to focus on the bigger problems the NBA has to ensure it remains competitive.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:45 AM on December 01

I'd pay for Carmelo and Kidd to take an egg nog DNP for the Knicks-Lakers Xmas Day game.

Travel, dress, warm up, and then just sit and enjoy the action.

Maybe drop a subtle hint to the league office about it ahead of time so the commissioner can make a pre-emptive public fool of himself again.

Or say nothing and watch his veins pop during the player intros.

posted by beaverboard at 09:19 AM on December 01

It's bad PR to allow teams to keep healthy star players out of games. The fans at the game are cheated out of the players they have every reason to expect to see that night.

I think you have a right to expect the home team to show up at full strength and play to win. Anything else is a bonus and doesn't come with the price of a ticket. That works both ways: I think it's bullshit to charge extra based upon the strength or pulling power of the opposition, apart from marginal situations such as a cup tie that needs additional resources.

So I agree with hincandenza on this, but acknowledge that it's a legitimate philosophical difference, especially in the American context of league systems with drafts, revenue-sharing and wage caps to induce more "entertaining" competition.

posted by etagloh at 10:49 AM on December 01

Popovich's job is to try to win a championship ...

On one level, yes. But at a more basic level his job is to entertain. If his tactic is adopted by other NBA coaches, will that make the league more or less entertaining?

I think you have a right to expect the home team to show up at full strength and play to win.

Why do you stop there and give the road team an excuse not to play at full strength? If the Lakers come to Orlando and I make the two-plus hour drive to see them play, I'll be bummed if a healthy Kobe Bryant sits the whole game or isn't even on the trip. If that became the norm, it would hurt ticket sales.

posted by rcade at 12:50 PM on December 01

If that became the norm, it would hurt ticket sales.

If it became the norm they wouldn't be starters, so that's not really logical. I get the other side of the argument, but I don't think the fact that Timmy Bigfan happens to have squeezed his rear into a seat on one given night should affect how the team uses its players. As a Celtics fan, I'm very sensitive to the rights of senior citizens to take a night off here and there to prevent their bones from turning to dust.

posted by yerfatma at 12:53 PM on December 01

If it became the norm they wouldn't be starters, so that's not really logical.

That's too literal a read of what I said. If it became the norm for healthy starters around the league to skip some road trips ...

posted by rcade at 01:12 PM on December 01

If his tactic is adopted by other NBA coaches, will that make the league more or less entertaining?

Less entertaining for one night in November, more entertaining later in the season when it actually matters. Even if they played it wasn't going to be the most entertaining product. Have you seen teams play their 4th game in 5 days? It's not pretty.

If it became the norm for healthy starters around the league to skip some road trips ...

the league would improve it's scheduling?

Not that this is going to be enforceable at all. If teams think their player needs a rest, they will get a rest one way or the other. Maybe that means the player needs to be at the game with a mystery ailment or maybe on the bench after playing ten minutes. As long as the scheduling rewards teams who give players breaks, it's going to happen.

posted by tron7 at 05:21 PM on December 01

Why do you stop there and give the road team an excuse not to play at full strength?

There's not much of an away support at most big-league sporting contests, because of geography and ticketing policies. Now, I'll grant that many franchises rely on visiting stars to fill empty seats, and that the catchment area for franchises comes with additional travel costs.

I simply think that as a home supporter, your ticket is a tacit contract with the home team. (As an away fan, you are paying in the hope of that rare, exquisite experience of watching home fans suffer, and usually end up suffering yourself.) If the away team wants to send half a squad, I may bemoan not being able to share my opinion of the absent stars within their earshot, but I'm completely fine with it.

Like I said, the setup of American leagues changes this a bit, and every professional league around the world has people who'll show up to watch a glamorous visiting team. I just personally don't care about part-timers.

posted by etagloh at 05:28 PM on December 01

I simply think that as a home supporter, your ticket is a tacit contract with the home team.

I would agree with that in a less regimented and controlled system than the NBA, but the Miami Heat are an extension of the league (especially given that they were created by the league), not a team with some level of autonomy to extend invitations to other teams (e.g., college football or European soccer). The league sets the schedules and controls the game to the point that I expect anyone coming in to be at an NBA level and provide an actual game during the regular season.

posted by Etrigan at 06:43 PM on December 01

I was thinking about this thread earlier today, and I think the two 'camps', such as they are, are really divided over one [mis]conception, which is "Professional athletes are entertainers".

Part of this confusion might stem from not making a distinction that things we find entertaining must therefore define the participants as "entertainers". For example, when I read about the latest homophobic congressman or preacher who's outed on rentboy.com or in an airport bathroom stall, I am [i]highly[/i] entertained- but that doesn't somehow make these bigots "entertainers". Some people in the arts are dedicated to putting on a show, and in this regard are entertainers- but others, such as those populating the reality TV wasteland- are pursuing separate goals (fame, money, winning a competitive singing/dancing/cooking show for cash and opportunity, boredom, etc), but the televising of their behavior and lives is what is entertaining to us. But I wouldn't classify the Real Housewives of _____ or the high strung trailer park guests on a daytime talk show as "entertainers", though some of us find them entertaining.

Similarly, the competitive nature of the top tier of sports is very entertaining for many people to watch- the tension, the interpreted dramatic arcs of a game or season or a decade- but the athletes themselves are not "entertainers". They are [i]competitors[/i], and they are the best at what they do which is why they are employed- at great pay- and not you or I, because part of our entertainment from the competition is knowing that we can't just find some random person in the audience who would be better.

It's a subtle but important distinction between entertainment and entertainer, and there's something paternalistic and aristocratic in the notion that the athletes owe us their very bodies for 16/82/162 games out of the year, even pushing past exhaustion or injury, solely for our mere entertainment. Implicit is that they must do this because they are so well paid... although we never seem to be so harsh to the far wealthier owners. The players ought to have the freedom- along with the team- to look after their own health and overall success, as they aren't just gladiators we cheer on while they slaughter each other.

etalgoh: especially in the American context of league systems with drafts, revenue-sharing and wage caps to induce more "entertaining" competition.
What's interesting is that again, the things you mention are not perfectly implemented, and as such result in a far greater disparity from game to game to the fans. How is San Antonio sitting three stars for this game different than a different team showing up one night later with far less talent on the court when they aren't resting anyone?

posted by hincandenza at 08:41 PM on December 01

I simply think that as a home supporter, your ticket is a tacit contract with the home team.

Every time I've ever gone to an Orlando Magic game the choice of the game was due to the visiting team. I'm not a Magic fan as much as an NBA fan. So if I'm buying tickets to see healthy players who are held out for tactical reasons, I'm less inclined to keep going.

If I lived near Dallas it would be different. But there are other fans in my situation, and Popovich's strategy impacts our in-person enjoyment of the game.

(As an aside, the last time I went to see Shaq he was a late scratch due to injury. But I did get to see him engage in a suspicious conversation with a young woman from his car as he drove to the arena.)

It's a subtle but important distinction between entertainment and entertainer, and there's something paternalistic and aristocratic in the notion that the athletes owe us their very bodies for 16/82/162 games out of the year, even pushing past exhaustion or injury, solely for our mere entertainment

Who said they owe us to play while injured? The issue is a healthy player being intentionally kept home. Obviously an injured player should be able to sit.

As for NBA players not being entertainers, I don't see how they could be anything else. They're paid to draw an audience by engaging in a contrived activity. The fact they are the best at that activity just makes them more entertaining.

posted by rcade at 08:57 PM on December 01

I'm trying to recall whether Adam Morrison, Derrick Coleman, or Joe Barry Carroll (among others) ever did anything that could be called entertaining. In the "excelling at an activity" sense.

posted by beaverboard at 09:48 PM on December 01

...I'm very sensitive to the rights of senior citizens...

Thanks, yerfatma. As a senior citizen, I'm very sensitive to the rights of Celtics fans to take a night off to rest their weary sensitivities.

Yes, folks, professional sports is entertainment, but unlike most entertainment, each performance is unique, and each performance has meaning for the longer season. Thus, if the understudies are in because the stars need a night off to stay at their best for the long haul, so be it. The understudies are professionals too, and judging from the result of the Miami game, I believe their performance was quite up to the high standard expected in the NBA.

posted by Howard_T at 09:52 PM on December 01

I'm not sure I'd fully agree with hincandenza's last comment, but I think the "competition vs entertainment" argument is the thing here.

American professional leagues are certainly contrivances that aim to produce a combination of microcompetition (drafts and salary capping to encourage rough results on a game-by-game basis) and macrocompetition (playoff systems that offer relatively marginal rewards for success in the regular season, and often offer .500 teams a path to the championship).

So I absolutely understand rcade's point about being in Orlando's home market but not being an Orlando home supporter -- and it's clear that college sports (or minor leagues) are actually closer to the European professional model in terms of the hard home/away distinction and fan expectations.

I do think hincandenza is right that the contrivances are ultimately broken, not just because (San Antonio - OAPs) = (Bobcats): there's a tension between the microcompetition and macrocompetition in a league system in which each team is individually motivated towards the goal of a championship, as opposed to an exhibition league. The Spurs are not the Harlem Globetrotters.

posted by etagloh at 10:28 PM on December 01

The Spurs have the best record in the Western Conference after tonight's overtime victory over the Grizzlies. Just food for thought....

posted by Goyoucolts at 11:39 PM on December 01

Similarly, the competitive nature of the top tier of sports is very entertaining for many people to watch- the tension, the interpreted dramatic arcs of a game or season or a decade- but the athletes themselves are not "entertainers". They are [i]competitors[/i], and they are the best at what they do which is why they are employed- at great pay- and not you or I, because part of our entertainment from the competition is knowing that we can't just find some random person in the audience who would be better.

Sorry, but you're just wrong. They are competitors, yes, but they are not paid because they're competitors. To illustrate the difference -- I might be the best office-chair racer in the world. I am fucking amazing at scooting my office chair around any course of cubicles, copiers and ferns that you care to set up. I am a competitor. And yet, no one wants to pay money to watch me do this. That is why I am not a professional office-chair racer. People watch professional basketball because they are entertained by it, and that's where all the money comes from.

It's a subtle but important distinction between entertainment and entertainer, and there's something paternalistic and aristocratic in the notion that the athletes owe us their very bodies for 16/82/162 games out of the year, even pushing past exhaustion or injury, solely for our mere entertainment.

Oh... fucking... please. No one here is remotely saying anything that's even close to being in the same neighborhood as this, and it's insulting to this entire board that you think we'd be dumb enough to let you get away with such a patently stupid and offensive argument.

Implicit is that they must do this because they are so well paid... although we never seem to be so harsh to the far wealthier owners.

Seriously? Do you even read anything that anyone says here ever?

posted by Etrigan at 12:12 AM on December 02

How is San Antonio sitting three stars for this game different than a different team showing up one night later with far less talent on the court when they aren't resting anyone?

Technically, by sending the players back to San Antonio instead of playing them, the Spurs actually had their top 5 scorers unavailable to play (the others were injured).

As for the difference with a good team not trying to win, and a bad team...

Which would be more insulting to watch:

  • A NBA-ready college basketball player you knew was tanking the game.
  • Some college player from a non-name school who was trying.

If the Spurs had sat ONE of the stars ("flu-like symptoms"), I don't think people would have made a big stink. You do that three games in a row (rotating through your stars so most of them play each game), and nobody notices or cares.

posted by grum@work at 01:17 AM on December 02

Oh... fucking... please. No one here is remotely saying anything that's even close to being in the same neighborhood as this, and it's insulting to this entire board that you think we'd be dumb enough to let you get away with such a patently stupid and offensive argument.

Wow, see, that's way wilder than what touched me off after I disagreed with the prevailers upthread. Why would anyone want to be part of this stuff? Is someone else's opinion about any topic grounds for such nastiness?

I mean, I figure I overreacted to grum up there, and felt an attack when he probably wasn't leveling one at me personally, and I was pretty unhelpful towards the discourse myself, for which I feel more apologetic the more time passes, no doubt.

But does dissension always have to engender contention like this? At least grum had the decency to be right and factual, even though I ended up with ruffled feathers. But this thing, warrantless and content-free taking up of the entire board's putative cause against hincandenza's presumed stupidity, what a hell is going on?

It's weird behavior. Really weird.

posted by Hugh Janus at 05:03 PM on December 02

But does dissension always have to engender contention like this? At least grum had the decency to be right and factual, even though I ended up with ruffled feathers. But this thing, warrantless and content-free taking up of the entire board's putative cause against hincandenza's presumed stupidity, what a hell is going on?

Warrantless? hincandenza accused me -- more or less personally, but certainly as part of the group that disagrees with him -- of wanting basketball to be a gladiator game. Using that actual word, as well as "slaughter." That is not dissent, that is agitation. Am I stooping nearly to hincandenza's level by responding to his disingenuousness? Perhaps. But accusing me of baying for the blood of Popovich and his players is ridiculous and should not stand uncontested.

posted by Etrigan at 05:50 PM on December 02

It's kind of weird that you took that personally. What hincandenza wrote was nowhere near as direct as you seem to think.

Once again, however, I'm sorry I got involved in this thread.

posted by Hugh Janus at 06:03 PM on December 02

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