Basketball Players’ Night Off Makes a Stand for Sitting Out
David Stern’s heart is in the right place, but as usual, his methods make a mess of everything.
I appreciate Stern’s coming from, and as a paying fan, I am grateful that he’s at least appearing to look out for his paying customers. We sold our tickets to the last Broncos game against the Chiefs (the last game of the season) and right now I’m scared about the prospect of the team having nothing to pay for, and the tickets my friends are using for family Christmas presents won’t look as great without Peyton and Von Miller in the game.
Ultimately sports is in the business of entertaining people, more so in the NBA who actively markets their stars to the point of charging more for visiting teams with more famous players. It’s not unreasonable for a fan to expect to see said stars when they buy tickets to this game.
Coach Popovich’s best interest is the well-being and competitiveness of his team, and I do respect his decision to limit the number of minutes for critical players. However, the ultimate error was when he had those players fly home and not even attend the game. At least have these guys come in and sit on the bench, or even better: play them 2 minutes and throw the fans a bone. It’s also one thing if you give one player a night off, but when four of your five starters aren’t even in the building – that’s a problem.
Stern, a business leader, is trying to serve his best interests: his paying customers (both the fans and TV partners). Where Stern went wrong was with his tactics, by threatening the team before the game with an “or else”, then slamming the gauntlet and trying to set a precedent. The problem is that David Stern doesn’t have a lot of room to talk when he says “disservice to the league”, when he presides over a league that schedules 4 games in 5 nights, that experienced a lockout where games were missed last year, as well as belittling those who have the audacity to question the legitimacy of a lottery awarding their top draft pick to the league-owned team. David Stern shouldn’t be casting stones from his glass house.
All of this mess could have been avoided if one guy stepped in and did his job: Peter Holt, the owner of the San Antonio Spurs. While Popovich acts in the best interest of the team’s competitiveness, Holt’s job is to straddle the line between competitiveness and entertainment enterprise. Wearing his “enterprise” hat, he should have stepped in and canceled those plane tickets, forced the players to at least go to the arena: either in shorts or suits. It’s his job to look out for the greater good of his organization, and avoid a PR mess like this. Popovich may not have been happy, but would accept this compromise, because his boss – who is looking out for bigger interests – told him to.
Hopefully good can come from this. It’s time for the NBA to have a serious conversation about an 82-game schedule, and whether these crazy road-trips are really worth it. People don’t start paying attention to the NBA until your 10-week playoffs start anyway.