'Disservice to the league' to cost San Antonio $250,000

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When the San Antonio Spurs held out four starters Thursday night, coach Gregg Popovich framed it as an investment in the future: Resting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green now will presumably pay dividends next spring.

That investment just cost the Spurs a whopping $250,000.

Commissioner David Stern announced the penalty Friday evening, citing an obscure league policy intended to discourage teams from resting players “in a manner contrary to the best interests of the NBA.”

In a statement, Stern said the penalty was “dictated by the totality of the facts in this case.”

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“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,” Stern said. “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.”

Popovich has routinely rested his three veteran stars — Duncan, Parker and Ginobili — in recent seasons, in an attempt to protect their health and to conserve their energy for the playoffs.

In announcing the decision Thursday, Popovich said, “It’s the best thing for our team.”

The Spurs were playing their fourth game in five nights, all on the road. They also have a critical divisional game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

The Spurs didn’t comment on the penalty.

Others, though, did offer their opinions about the fine.

“I don’t like it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Asked if he would rest players, he said, “We’ll do it when we want to do it, and we should be able to do it.”

Steve Kerr, a TNT analyst who played for Popovich, 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.”


• Utah forward Marvin Williams, out of Bremerton, did not play Friday night against Oklahoma City after being diagnosed with concussion symptoms.

Kevin Durant scored 25 points, Russell Westbrook made a two-pronged bid for his sixth career triple-double and Oklahoma City, at home, finished off an impressive homestand by beating Utah 106-94. Westbrook ended up with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals.

Alexey Shved scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and Kevin Love overcame a nasty stomach bug to collect 15 points and 14 rebounds as host Minnesota beat Milwaukee.

Joe Johnson had 22 points and the Nets earned their fifth consecutive victory, holding off host Orlando 98-86.

• Rudy Gay had 18 points, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley added 17 each, and Memphis, at home, won its fourth in a row with a 90-78 victory over Detroit.

• The Suns are guaranteeing fans will have a good time at the game against the Mavericks. The Suns say anyone who buys a ticket and attends the game Thursday will have their money returned if they are not completely satisfied with their experience.

• Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio was cleared to return to full-contact practice this week and is expected to practice this weekend. He is recovering from torn ligaments in his left knee.

• The Raptors have signed free-agent swingman Mickael Pietrus, a 6-foot-6 three-point shooter with a .357 career percentage.

Jeff Green scored 19 points, Jason Terry, out of Franklin High, added 17 and host Boston cruised to a comfortable victory without suspended Rajon Rondo, topping Portland 96-78.

Alonzo Gee scored on a putback with less than one second remaining, lifting visiting Cleveland to a 113-111 victory over Atlanta to snap a four-game losing streak.

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