Apparently the Spurs are playing the Heat tonight. I won’t be watching as I’m sure League Pass will have it blacked out. The Spurs will apparently be resting a majority of their starters as they played (and won) last night. This isn’t actually a terrible move. The Spurs are on the road and the second night of a back to back against a very good team. Some of their top players are older in age. The Spurs are making a long term decision to trump a short term one. In essence: “we would rather keep our team healthy than try to win a game where the odds are significantly against us.”
This has caused some strife on the web (at least what I’ve viewed on Twitter.) Here’s the issue. As I mentioned with the All-Star game, the NBA has put itself square in a position of entertainment vs. competition. Yes, a nationally televised game between two of the best teams SHOULD have its best players. That is if you want competition. And ideally this will increase the entertainment value to the fans.
The problem is that these two things don’t actually work together. Let’s start out with the point that the Spurs are one of the greatest teams of all time, and yet they are in a terrible market. By having things like individual player salary caps, rookie drafts, bird rights, etc. the league has basically said competition, regardless of market size, trumps entertainment (getting the most fan exposure.) Yes, there are reasons big markets still attract top talent, but this is working against the rules the NBA has put in place, not with them.
Additionally, the NBA schedule includes back to back games. This is of course to include more games in the schedule. In the lockout shortened season the choice between more games or resting teams, the league went for more games (which resulted in back to back to backs) This sides with entertainment over competition.
In the case of wanting San Antonio to both play a back to back (entertainment) and also win lots of games, which requires a healthy team (competition) the NBA is trying to have its cake and eat it too. There is absolutely no problem with the Spurs ignoring a short term benefit for someone else for a long term gain. It’s called a trade off and the Spurs have shown a good ability to make these.
A final note, the way revenue sharing works in the NBA, the home team takes most of the gate. As this is an away game for the Spurs, they gain very little from it. In essence, there is no reason other than external pressure that the Spurs should feel obligated to play this game all out. Fans can be upset. However, it’s very much like the League Pass broadband plan I signed up for. They set the price and set the conditions and I got what I paid for. The same is true of any fan buying a ticket or tuning into the game tonight. The league’s set the rules and the price and the fans can decide if its worth the cost.