Solution to Pop’s Tactics? Quarter Points

The growing anticipation of tonight’s Spurs-Heat game, a primetime TNT tilt, came to a screeching halt an hour or so ago.  Gregg Popovich, the “arrogant in an endearing sorta way” coach of the Spurs, decided to leave all of his best players home to rest.  No Danny Green.  No Tony Parker.  No Manu Ginobili.  No Tim Duncan.  No chance for a win.  No reason for fans to watch.  Pop takes a sick satisfaction in sticking it to the league–in this case, the fans too–and it is no coincidence that he chose primetime to utilize a favorite strategy of his to preserve player health and minimize the fatigue of an aging team.  I think most, or all, fans would agree that this is bad for the league.  But what can be done to stop it?  Nothing, exactly, but here’s an idea for a strong deterrent, pulled right from the game-wrap comments section (h/t Dave A):

Award quarter points for regular season games.

In the old Continental Basketball Association (CBA) the league would award 1 point for each quarter that a team “won” in a given game, and 3 more points for the winner of the game.  The winning team would then take away between 4 and 7 “quarter points” for the night’s work.  The format encouraged continuous effort throughout the game, no matter the point spread.  In tonight’s game at Miami, the Spurs would certainly be laying 7 points on the table by trotting out a second string against the Heat.  Whether that is incentive enough to bring Timmy & Co. along I can’t be sure, but laying such eggs would have an impact on the Spurs conference ranking.  Traditionalists would argue that quarter points are a gimmick that detract from the purity of the GAME–that by impacting standings in each quarter, the value of the GAME is diminished.  As I write this, I wonder that myself.

But you know something?  For the best teams like Miami and San Antonio, the NBA regular season is a joke anyway.  Plus, there is still value in winning the game with a quarter-point system; 3 of them, in fact.  And the teams that win the game likely won 2 or more quarters anyway.  Wouldn’t it be fun for there to be 4 quarters where a final possession could have immediate season impact?  Also, the idea of a points standing (instead of wins and losses) would increase league flexibility in areas such as a midseason cup (winner of a single-elimination tournament takes, say, 10 points for playoff standings?) or draft-order determinations.

But for tonight’s purposes, the quarter point would simply put Tim Duncan on the floor which is what 20,000 fans paid to see and many more hoped to watch on TNT.  Maybe tonight when Charles Barkley is interviewing Gregg Popovich, he should ask him what he thinks of the rule proposal.  Pop would probably give a colorful answer.  Just a thought.

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2 responses to “Solution to Pop’s Tactics? Quarter Points

  1. Eric in Madison

    I have mixed feelings about this situation, though ultimately I think punishing this sort of behavior is a mistake. The schedule is brutal, and if the NBA insists on an 82 game regular season slog, not only are you going to get more injuries, but you are going to get this sort of decision making by smart guys like Popovich. The truth is, if it were Tuesday in Orlando, the league wouldn’t care much. I get that; it’s justified. TNT pays them a lot of money. Here’s what I wrote over at CH last night:

    Stern is wrong.

    However, let me try the counter argument:

    A sports league is a weird thing. It is not wholly a single business, and yet it is not 30 different competitors either. This winds up causing confusion in a number of areas, but here we are concerned with the essential tension between what is good for the individual (the Spurs in this case) and what is good for the game or league as a whole. What is good for the league is for San Antonio to put the best team on the floor that it can, especially in a marquee game against the defending champs on national TV.

    One could argue that it should be the job of the commissioner to restrain action that is good for the individual, but bad for the group. The individual will always do what is in his best interests, even if long term it hurts the collective (and therefore the individual as well). There has to be a counterbalancing power that restrains such behavior.

    • Agree about the Tuesday versus Orlando comparison. Another comparison, that probably should have sparked some reform (or, if Stern wants to play it this way, sanctions) from the league is tanking by bad teams for ping pong balls. In some cases that means a star player sitting 10, 20, even 30 games when he *could* be playing. 82 games is a lot, the Spurs are an old team, and Pop’s strategy to blow a game (though they almost won it!) at Miami is a smart way to preserve his players for the long haul. I haven’t seen any official report of sanctions (just Stern’s quote that they will be coming) but I’d guess Stern will craft his argument in a way that highlights the players not even attending the game. He can’t start meddling into playing rotations, but perhaps he can say that blatantly “skipping” games is unacceptable and not in the best interests of the game.