Gregg Popovich asks if Dwyane Wade would be willing to testify in his defense. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
We all remember San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich incurring the wrath of David Stern when he decided to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back to Texas to rest rather than suit them up for a nationally televised matchup with the Miami Heat back in November. Hours after news of Pop's choice broke, Stern issued an apology to NBA fans and promised "substantial sanctions" against the Spurs for desecrating the sanctity of the game or whatever; he followed through on that threat to the tune of a $250,000 fine for the Spurs organization.
For most fans, a public apology and a stiff financial penalty seemed somewhere between sufficient and way overboard punishment for the grave misdeed of Pop managing his team's roster. For one Florida man, though, it apparently wasn't enough; coincidentally, this man happens to be a lawyer who thinks the Spurs have run afoul of the Sunshine State's "deceptive and fair trade practices law," according to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell:
On Monday, Larry McGuinness filed a class action suit in Miami-Dade County, stating that the team's head coach, Gregg Popovich, "intentionally and surrepticiously" sent their best players home without the knowledge of the league, the team and the fans attending the Nov. 29 game against the Heat. McGuinness contends that he, as well as other fans, "suffered economic damages" as a result of paying a premium price for a ticket that shouldn't cost more. [...]
It's often assumed that fans might not see certain high-profile players because of injury, but McGuinness said this was different given that all of the top players were not available to play.
"It was like going to Morton's Steakhouse and paying $63 for porterhouse and they bring out cube steak," said McGuinness, who said he bought his ticket on the resale market. "That's exactly what happened here."
If that Nov. 29 game was "cube steak," it was a pretty damn deliciously prepared one — if you'll recall, the Spurs' reserves went blow for blow with the Heat's stars for 47-plus minutes before Ray Allen nailed a dagger 3-pointer to propel Miami to a 105-100 win. It sure seemed tasty enough to the viewing public — 2 million viewers tuned into the TNT broadcast of the game, according to Sports Media Watch. The thrilling nature of the contest, though, "doesn't mean a game with the Spurs top players couldn't have been more exciting," McGuinness told Rovell.
I can't argue against that point — Manu and Tony Parker are both super fun to watch with the ball in their hand; Duncan has been, if not necessarily "fun," then certainly crazy good this year, and Green's a rad little player who has hit game-winners and locked dudes up defensively, too. It's possible that the game could've been more exciting based on individual stars making excellent individual plays born of their own unique talent. Fine.
But as Rovell and plenty of other folks have noted in discussing the ethical considerations of Pop's rest strategy, a certain set of rosters isn't guaranteed to be on display for any given game; lineups are subject to change for any number of reasons, including a coach's prerogative to prevent his players from potentially overexerting a month into an 82-game season. I'm no lawyer, but I'm guessing if this actually ever does get to a judge, deliberations on the case's validity wouldn't last very long. If nothing else, though, maybe the potential blind spot/vulnerability of such suits, however frivolous they seem, will lead Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver to clearly define policies governing a coach's rights and responsibilities in such situations; remember, even a month after being publicly reprimanded for his decision, Popovich said he had received no further guidance in how to handle similar matters in the future.
The Spurs had no official comment on the matter, which is both reasonable and no fun. For the opposite of that, we turn to @FakeCoachPop:
My name is Gregg. I coach the San Antonio Cube Steaks.
— Gregory Popovich (@FakeCoachPop) January 15, 2013
Now there's the stuff.