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Robert Sarver was brave enough to say what more people around the NBA should and almost certainly have to be wondering.
Why does it appear league officials always seem to go out of their way in catering to all the peculiarities of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich? And why does it seem the five-time champion coach is allowed to get away with indiscretions a lesser coach or franchise would never, ever even dare consider trying?
Trust, you’re preaching to the choir here in asserting that it was only a preseason game Thursday night when Popovich decided to hold out most of his starters during their 121-90 road loss to the Phoenix Suns, but understand the veteran coach has seemingly made a career of thumbing his nose at fans in that same fashion, victimizing them with the same sort of cavalier handling that was on full display this week in Sun Valley.
“This is not the game you paid your hard-earned money to watch,” the Suns managing partner told the more than 14,000 in attendance at US Airways Center after Popovich inexplicably dared to sit Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili for the entire night. “I apologize for it, and I want you to send me your tickets if you came tonight with a return envelope. I got a gift for you on behalf of the Suns for showing up tonight.”
So dismissive of the whole Phoenix scene was Popovich, the veteran coach didn’t even bother to show up at the arena for game-night himself, leaving the coaching duties for a roster all of a sudden headlined by the likes of Matt Bonner, Aron Baynes and Kyle Anderson to his equally undistinguishable assistants.
Some Spurs’ officials contend Popovich’s actions were prompted by the team’s recent draining trip abroad for two preseason games, but as far back as 2005 he again stuck it to the Suns and, more pointedly, the fans when he held both Duncan and Ginobili out of a regular season game. In 2012, he again engaged in those very shenanigans when he sat Duncan, Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green against the eventual league champion Miami Heat and LeBron James with not so much as an advance warning to fans, drawing an underwhelming $250,000 fine from the league.
The cost of admission to an NBA arena is no joke, and fans should be able to at least expect to get what they think they’re paying for whenever they’re able to pony up. In this case, that would be the almost certain Hall of Fame bound trio of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.
“Everyone was expecting a big-time game,” Sarver said of his decision to offer fans rebates of up to $50. “I was disappointed. Our fans pay a lot of money. It was just a gesture to let them know we appreciate their support and want to do something to compensate for that.”
For sure, the Spurs are defending champs and Popovich will almost assuredly have them back in the hunt again this season. But that still doesn’t make it his league to do whatever, whenever he pleases. Everybody else be damned.
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