When the NBA passed new rules this past summer prohibiting teams from resting healthy players, it might as well have been called the Gregg Popovich Rule. The Spurs coach has earned a reputation for sitting his veterans whenever possible, even if, say, his team was facing a marquee team on national television. Tim Duncan’s one-time “DNP — Old” will always be legendary.
Now, Popovich is testing the limits of the new rules. When the Spurs faced the Sixers on Wednesday, nearly all their notable players sat, with Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker labeled out due to “return from injury management.”
Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis), Manu Ginobili (rest), Danny Green (tightness, left groin), Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) and Tony Parker (return from injury management) are all out for tonight’s Spurs-76ers game. pic.twitter.com/maWmwHYH1g
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 3, 2018
This is not the first time this season the Spurs have sat players due to “return from injury management,” but it’s particularly jarring given the number of guys they’re sitting.
Still, this isn’t quite as egregious as it seems. Kawhi is truly recovering from a quadriceps serious injury and has not yet played back-to-back days, and Parker similarly has missed the second leg of back-to-backs since returning from a quad injury around Thanksgiving. As for the other guys, who are we to say that the injuries to Gay and Green aren’t serious enough to warrant sitting?
It’s especially tough to criticize the Spurs’ strategy on a day they faced the Sixers, who have carefully managed the minutes of their best player, Joel Embiid, all season.
Still, Popovich’s “return from injury management” wording is drawing some negative attention, and given the Spurs’ reputation, they’re not going to get any benefit of the doubt on this front. The NBA would like to limit how often one of its best teams is reduced to starting Bryn Forbes and Kyle Anderson, as San Antonio was in Wednesday’s loss to Philly, and the league can’t be thrilled about the “return from injury management” gambit.
The NBA’s new rules were supposed to end the tiresome debate about teams resting star players. As it turns out, the issue might not be going away.