Fans hoping to see a competitive NBA game featuring the best the Spurs have to offer were surely disappointed by last night’s Spurs-Suns debacle.
Coach Gregg Popovich, who himself missed the game, decided to rest stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, while sitting Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, and Patty Mills for a variety of ailments.
The Spurs, missing 3/5 of its staring lineup and two key backups, went with a rotation centered around guys like Jeff Ayres, Aron Baynes and JaMychal Green, and were predictably crushed by the full-strength Suns 120-91.
It was a game completely lacking in intrigue, and the Spurs’ actions didn’t sit well with Suns owner Robert Sarver, who commandeered the PA system in the 4th quarter to apologize to Suns fans for the lackluster game.
“Hey, everybody, I want to thank you for coming out tonight,” Sarver said. “This is not the game you paid your hard-earned money to watch. I apologize for it. And I want you to send me your tickets if you came tonight with a return envelope and I’ve got a gift for you on behalf of the Suns for showing up tonight. Thank you.”
It was a nice gesture from Robert Sarver, and in many ways understandable. As the team’s owner, the fans’ happiness is a huge part of his business, so it makes sense to do what’s needed to sate the fans.
These fans did spend their hard-earned money on tickets, and having them sit through a glorified scrimmage against the Spurs’ B-squad was undoubtedly disappointing. But look at things from the Spurs’ perspective, and things Pop’s actions become a lot more defensible.
First off, this isn’t like the Spurs benching their entire lineup during a regular season game.
“This is not the game you paid your hard-earned money to watch. I apologize for it.” – Robert Sarver, Phoenix Suns Owner
It’s the preseason, and the starter’s rarely play more than 20-25 minutes anyway. NFL teams sit starters in the preseason all the time, and no one bats an eye, so it’s not fair to expect guys like Duncan to play 10 or so meaningless games before he begins his 18th season.
The Spurs were also coming off a trip to Europe after games against Alba Berlin and Fenerbache Ulker as part of the NBA’s Global Games initiative.
The extended travel time takes makes the DNP’s for Duncan, Ginobili and the 65-year-old Popovich reasonable and the need for extra rest understandable. It makes even less sense to send the injured Leonard, Splitter and Mills onto the court with injuries when the regular season is 11 days away.
The preseason is the time for coaches to analyze the team’s roster, including rookies and new free agents, make rotation adjustments, try new lineups, and check out training camp hopefuls looking to snag a final roster spot.
The Spurs, however, will enter the season with virtually the same roster as last season, rendering much of the preseason useless. They know what their players bring to the table, they know what rotations and lineups work, they have their 15 man roster set in stone, and they really only have one new rotation player, rookie Kyle Anderson (who started and played 26 minutes).
The Spurs have one goal in the preseason: get to the regular season with everyone rested and healthy.
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The Spurs didn’t do anything wrong by sitting guys in the preseason, and Robert Sarver didn’t do anything wrong by reacting how he did.
Both were simply doing what they thought was in the best interest of the team and the fans, respectively. Fortunately, meaningful games are right around the corner, so fans and owners alike won’t have to worry about a lack of star power or on-court intrigue for long.
What do you think of the San Antonio Spurs’ decision to bench some of their key players for the preseason game against the Phoenix Suns? What do you think of Robert Sarver’s gesture to Suns fans? Let us know in the comments!
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