NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman isn't the worst in his position anymore.
That dubious honor now goes to outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern, who levied a $250,000 fine against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday after the Spurs' coach, Gregg Popovich, opted to rest four of his star players and sent them back to San Antonio instead of playing them in a nationally televised game on Thursday against the NBA champion Miami Heat.
To Stern, it's all about the perception of "image" as far as the Association is concerned, but it's a bunch of smoke & mirrors. Stern prefers to market his league based on individual stars, but it's still a team game, which is how Popovich operates his team. 4 NBA titles speak for themselves as far as San Antonio goes. So why punish Popovich for doing what he felt was the right thing in the long term, given that there are still as many as 7 months left in the season, counting the playoffs?
Because, in Stern's twisted mind, the Spurs, despite having the likes of Tony Parker & Tim Duncan, don't generate ratings or controversy. Parker, for example, isn't tabloid bait anymore now that he's divested himself of actress Eva Longoria (the two divorced a year or two ago). The Spurs were wrapping up a long road trip, and, in Popovich's mind, he needed to give some of his stars a break. To his credit, the Spurs played hard for 48 minutes, losing by 5. That doesn't satisfy Stern in the least bit. With him, it's all about the darlings of Madison Avenue (i.e. LeBron James), and preserving the facade that serves as the league's image. Remember last season, when Stern maneuvered a deal that led to Chris Paul going to the Clippers? That was because the league had ownership of the New Orleans Hornets at the time, and Stern blocked a trade to the Staples Center's other tenants, the Lakers. What purpose did that serve?
What purpose does Stern serve now, having overstayed his welcome in the NBA? Actually, none. He's making it harder for some people to actually care, and by that, I mean the casual fans who usually are surfing for somethng else on the tube, be it wrestling, football, or, say for example, CSI. He doesn't really care about the fans, otherwise, he'd finally get a clue and reduce ticket prices to make them more affordable for Joe Sixpack and his working class family. Anyone that thinks that Adam Silver, the commish-in-waiting, will be a change of pace will be fooling themselves. As long as Madison Avenue suits and network executives have something to say about the Association's product, nothing's changing.
That is, unless Stern finally realizes he's wrong. He joins Andrea Peyser as this week's Weasel for showing no class or respect toward a franchise that actually does things the way they're meant to be. Pete Rozelle wasn't a fan of the late Al Davis. Stern and the Spurs are on that same primrose path, and it's all Stern's fault.