Spurs coach Gregg Popovich acknowledged that teams resting star players for entire games is a “legitimate concern” for the NBA, but said because of the disparate objectives of the league’s constituents, it is a difficult problem for the league to legislate away.
Popovich, who pretty much invented the practice of occasionally resting stars, told ESPN he understands commissioner Adam Silver’s concern about the issue. In a memo sent to teams last week, Silver revealed the issue will be on the agenda at the April 6 board of governors meeting and warned teams will be handed "significant penalties" if they violate rules mandating “notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest."
Popovich said he and his coaching counterparts “all feel badly about” fans not getting to see star players after paying top dollar for tickets, but he stressed teams have longer-term goals to consider.
Popovich told ESPN.com, “If it was me, I’d be miffed myself (at missing out on seeing certain players). But we all have different roles, different jobs, and different goals. We can’t satisfy everybody. But I think that every owner’s gonna be different.”
He went on to say that owners compelling coaches not to sit players is “a slippery slope, and makes it difficult to keep trust, and camaraderie to the degree that I think you have to have to be successful in this league if owners get too involved in what coaches and GMs are doing.”
Coaches understand that resting players can impact the league’s business, Pop said.
“I think keeping owners informed about what’s going on is mandatory, and having input is fine,” he said. “But I think there has to be an understanding that coaches and GMs have brains also, and we know who pays the bills.”
Popovich is willing to work with the league to find a solution and said one concept that makes sense to him is resting players during home games instead of on the road, where fans have limited opportunity to see visiting teams’ players.
“If we rested Kawhi (Leonard), if there’s a way we could do it at home, that seems like a logical thing to me,” he said, “a reasonable thing that a coach or GM should think about, rather (than) that one time somebody’s gonna watch him play someplace else, if you can do it. Sometimes the schedule dictates differently. “
And not one to miss a chance to deliver a backhanded comment to President Donald Trump, Pop concluded of the issue, “It’s complicated ... kind of like health care.”