Gregg Popovich sent his best players home, deciding they reached the end of the road before the trip was over.
For that, and for keeping it a secret, the NBA fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 on Friday.
Commissioner David Stern said the Spurs "did a disservice to the league and our fans" when they didn't bring Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Danny Green to Miami for the final game of the six-game trip.
"The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case," Stern said. "The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team's only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans."
The league's statement said the Spurs violated league policy against resting players in a manner "contrary to the best interests of the NBA."
The Spurs didn't comment.
Resting healthy players has been debated before, though it usually occurs at season's end, not a month into it.
The Spurs even made a joke out of it last season, the box score listing "OLD" next to the 36-year-old Duncan's name as the reason he didn't play in one game.
Stern wasn't laughing Thursday.
He has a $5 billion industry to protect and can't like it when teams aren't willing to display their best product in a marquee game televised by national TV partner TNT. But there's never a guarantee that any players will play, and Stern previously made it clear he wasn't going to impose rules to change that.
"Popovich has done this before, and he knows what's best for his team," former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal said on TNT. "It's his job to manage his players and do whatever he'd like. He's thinking about the big picture."
Another former player turned TNT analyst, Steve Kerr who played for Popovich also defended the franchise.
"If the NBA punishes the Spurs for sitting players, it opens up a huge can of worms," he wrote on Twitter. "This is a serious legal challenge for the league."
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