Did the Spurs' Big 3 -- from left, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony… (Bahram Mark Sobhani / Associated…)
Coach Gregg Popovich was up to his usual antics Thursday night as the Spurs prepared to go up against the reigning NBA champion Heat in Miami in the second set of back-to-back games in five nights. He sent his Big 3 and another starter back to San Antonio to rest up for a weekend game against division rival Memphis.
Pity the poor Heat fans who paid good money to see stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker play for San Antonio. Or what about Spurs fans who happened to purchase tickets to the game in Miami? Oh yeah, it's also a nationally televised game on TNT.
The NBA reportedly will levy "substantial sanctions" for San Antonio's actions, according to a tweet from one ESPN reporter. The All-Star trio has played between 11 and 16 seasons. Danny Green, a relative pup with only a couple seasons of experience, was also sent home.
"Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing," Popovich said. "In our case, this month we've had 11 away games. We've had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we're ending it with four [games] in five nights here. I think it'd be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history."
Popovich has famously sat out Duncan, Ginobili and Parker before, going so far as to record in the official book as to why they did not play with "DNP -- Old Age."
"Perhaps it'll give us an opportunity to stay on the court with Memphis on Saturday night," Popovich said. "Historically, when you're on a long road trip, that 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."
Popovich understands that fans will be upset, yet he was still unapologetic.
"I've gotten letters from those people before when I've done it and I understand their perspective totally," Popovich said. "If I was taking my 6-year-old son or daughter to the game, I'd want him or her to see everybody. And if they weren't there, I'd be disappointed. So I understand that perspective. Hopefully, people in that position will understand my perspective, what my priority is — the basketball team and what's best for it."
Wire service and Internet reports contributed to this story.
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