Greg Jayne: Fine is Stern’s abuse of force

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Editor



You don’t know the power of the dark side!

He said that, didn’t he? He must have said that. He is, after all, Darth Stern, and when he throws a little dictatorial tantrum and fines the San Antonio Spurs $250,000, surely he does it in his most evil Sith voice.

Doesn’t he?

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

OK, maybe that’s the line he used, punctuating the sentiment with a remote choke hold by use of The Force. Because in penalizing the Spurs, in attempting to dictate playing time for a team, Stern has blindly ignored the real problem: His league’s ridiculous scheduling.

Let’s start at the beginning.

On Thursday, the Spurs decided to rest four of their best players — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green — for a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat.

This did not sit well with Darth Stern.

Never mind that the Spurs were playing the final game of a road trip that included six contests in nine days. Never mind that the trip concluded with four games in five days. Never mind that it should be up to coaches to decide how best to use their players — and how best to position their team for a championship run.

As deputy commissioner and commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver told last April, “The strategic resting of particular players on particular nights is within the discretion of the teams. And Gregg Popovich in particular is probably the last coach that I would second-guess.”

You know, four NBA titles and 15 consecutive playoff appearances tend to indicate that Popovich knows how to manage his players.

But this time, Stern saw fit to have a very public spat with Popovich, before reminding him who is in charge.

You are unwise to lower your defenses.

Stern, apparently, is unaware of numerous studies that have tied athletic injuries to the frequency of competition. One study published in 2010 showed that soccer players in the European Champions League suffered injuries six times as often — and with more severity — when they were scheduled to play two matches in a week instead of one.

Now, you might be thinking, “Hey, the NBA has the best athletes in the world, and these guys are in their 20s and 30s. This isn’t the rec league at the ‘Y.’ “

You would be correct.

But the evidence about injury rates is compelling, and I would think the NBA could present a better product if the likes of Derrick Rose and Steve Nash and Brandon Roy and Greg Oden and Dirk Nowitzki were not sidelined for long stretches.

Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter — the NBA season is absurdly long and the schedule insanely uneven. After their road trip, for example, the Spurs had a home game Saturday — their seventh game in 11 days — and then have three days off.

The Blazers have 15 instances of back-to-back games this season and one three-day rest aside from the All-Star break.

Forget the injury risk for a minute. Don’t you think the quality of play would improve if players didn’t have four games in five nights? Stern is more concerned with dictating playing time than he is with creating a quality product.

And, as the regular season drags on for 170 days, nobody has yet explained why this exercise needs to last for 82 games. The NBA’s regular season is as laborious as sitting through a “Twilight” movie marathon — and only slightly more interesting.

There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you.

An NBA schedule of, say, 65 games would result in a more entertaining product, more meaningful matchups, and a better quality of play. It will never happen, of course. Not as long as there is somebody, anybody, willing to pay money for tickets, concessions, and parking to as many as 82 games.

I can understand that.

There is some logic behind it.

But when Stern begins leveling fines because a team acted in its best long-term interest, when he starts trying to dictate who should play and who should rest, then his Darthness is showing. To which, I imagine, he would have the ideal response.

You are beaten. It is useless to resist.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or online at Follow him on Twitter: @col_gjayne

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