Gregg Popovich said Saturday night he doesn't know if the San Antonio Spurs will appeal a $250,000 fine from the NBA for sending his star players home to rest instead of playing them against the Miami Heat.
Speaking publicly for the first time since NBA Commissioner David Stern handed down the stiff penalty Friday, the Spurs coach and team president said he was "disappointed" in the decision.
"What I do from my perspective is from a coaching perspective," Popovich said. "And I think the league operates from a business perspective. And I think that's reflective in the action that they took."
Rather than play Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — three of the NBA's biggest names — against LeBron James and Miami in a nationally televised game Thursday night, Popovich put them on a plane and sent them home. It came at the end of a six-game road trip and after the Spurs had played five times in seven days.
Swingman Danny Green was also put on that early flight to San Antonio. Popovich justified his decision in Miami by saying he didn't want to subject Green and his aging Big Three to so much wear-and-tear this early in the season.
That decision infuriated Stern.
He apologized to NBA fans before the Miami game and vowed his office would hand down "substantial sanctions," which Stern delivered on the next day. He said he "concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans."
Popovich bristled when asked before Saturday night's game against Memphis whether he might nonetheless do the same thing, as the NBA's reigning coach of the year often does when posed with hypothetical questions. But he didn't rule it out, either.
"I don't have a crystal ball," Popovich said.
Popovich said he had discussions with the league before the fine was announced but did not elaborate. But one thing the two sides did not discuss, apparently, were guidelines the Spurs should follow the next time they want to rest their stars.
He said any deliberations about whether the Spurs will appeal would be done privately.
"That's not a confirmation or anything like that," Popovich said. "I have no idea. It's out of my hands."
Teams are required to report as soon as they know a player will not travel because of injury. The league's statement said the Spurs were in violation of league policy reviewed with the board of governors in April 2010 against resting players in a manner "contrary to the best interests of the NBA."
Stern also pointed out that it was the Spurs' only trip to Miami this season and that the team made the decision without informing the Heat, the media or league office in a "timely" fashion.
Mark Cuban, the outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner who can relate to heavy NBA fines better than anyone, said Saturday the NBA would have been within its rights to perhaps fine his team's top rival even more.
Cuban said he respects the Spurs and called Popovich "the best coach in the league." But he said the NBA is a business and called national television contracts the "money train" that decides whether the league is profitable or not.
The fine against the Spurs "maybe should have even been higher, because the amount at stake is enormous," Cuban said.
Cuban, however, said the NBA isn't completely blameless. He faulted the league for putting the Spurs on national television at the tail end of a long road trip, when San Antonio was unlikely to be playing at its peak.
"You can make the counter-argument that even though the Spurs did what they did, the league was just as guilty for putting them in that position, which was pretty stupid," Cuban said.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, whose team entered a half-game ahead of the Spurs for the best record in the Western Conference, said Popovich has a right to manage his team however he wants.
"I don't say it's bad, I don't say it's good," Hollins said. "That's Pop's decision. I do what I do with my team and he does what he does, and the 28 other teams do the same thing. Each coach has a responsibility to his players and his team."