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Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 8:58 am
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now, we turn to sports. This past week, there was a controversial fine levied in the NBA, that has a lot of people talking. But first, to that tragedy in Kansas City, Missouri. According to police, yesterday, a player on that city's NFL team shot and killed his girlfriend. Shortly after that, he drove to the Chiefs' practice facility, where he took his own life. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us now. Mike, those are just the basics, a sketch of what happened. But what else do we know about this?
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Yeah, it is a horrific story. Jovan Belcher is the linebacker in question. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs. And he did kill his girlfriend, Cassandra Perkins, the mother of his 3-month-old; then drove to the stadium - apparently, it's been reported, not with ill intent, but to talk to the coach and general manager who gave him a shot to play in the NFL. He thanked them, and then he committed suicide. The league left it up to the team, whether they would play today's game. The Carolina Panthers are flying in, and the Chiefs will be playing them today.
MARTIN: So we do want to move on to another story that's been in the sports headlines, in the past week - the quarter-million-dollar fine that the NBA has levied against the San Antonio Spurs. This was after their coach, Gregg Popovich, purposely benched his all-star players, to let them rest, the other night. And this seems reasonable to me, Mike. I mean, if a coach wants to rest his players, he can make that call. Why is he being fined?
PESCA: Not only does it seem reasonable to you but last year, when Popovich employed this strategy, he was lauded for it by none other than - among the people who lauded him was the assistant commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, who will be taking over next year. Greg Popovich has just about the most pristine reputation, of a coach in the NBA. So what happened was, this - the current - and outgoing - commissioner, David Stern, however, took great umbrage to this move, mainly because television was involved. So when you think about everyone who could have been affected by this - we're talking about resting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Danny Green...
MARTIN: Three really big players.
PESCA: Three big players - and Danny Green, who's a contributor, and...
PESCA: ...and another guy. And they were to play the Miami Heat. It was their third game in four days. You know, Popovich looked at the schedule and said, we're probably not going to win; if we let these guys go home, we're almost certainly not going to win. But I'd rather maybe sacrifice this one game against a non-division opponent; you know, rest our guys. It's an aging team. Who would be upset with this? The players appreciated the rest.
PESCA: Other coaches thought it was a good strategy. The Miami Heat was - LeBron James liked it. He was playing a much easier team to beat.
PESCA: Even the Miami Heat fans, you know - it gets said, what about that kid who's seeing - you know, wants to see Tony Parker, for the first time? I get that, but most fans of the opponent would take the easier team. They'd rather have their team win.
MARTIN: They want to win, yeah.
PESCA: So who's really upset by this, or who gets hurt? And the answer, it comes back to the television contract. This was a national game. And you take away some of the marquee value of the match-up, and that's why Stern interceded and levied a quarter-million-dollar fine for this - what really was a tactical decision.
MARTIN: So this is a rule? Like, you can't rest your players if it hurts TV ratings?
PESCA: It wasn't before. (LAUGHTER) It wasn't before David Stern said it was a rule. And it seems to me that - not that, you know, they're asking me to come in and calm everyone down - but there are ways...
PESCA: ...there are ways around this. Like, if you had seen the schedule beforehand - and people have said, you know, why - they schedule the Spurs to play the Heat, on such short rest. I get it. Scheduling's hard, but that's a decent enough complaint. But if you see - and if you could foresee that this might happen, perhaps a team could give the league notice, and then the league could switch around what its marquee match-ups would be. Look, the Spurs almost beat the Heat. You know, when...
MARTIN: It was a good game.
PESCA: It was a good game. It was a five-point game. The Spurs were leading, with time running out. So that was a good TV match-up. And maybe because they were rested, they beat their next opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, in overtime. We got two good games out of it. So if you're worried about TV, I think there are better ways than leveling huge fines against resters.
MARTIN: You heard it here first. NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks, Mike.
PESCA: You're welcome.
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MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.