MIAMI — Here was San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, showing how dumb a smart person can be, saying he turned a big game against the Heat into a big mess to rest his players amid a busy schedule.
"It's pretty easy to understand,'' he said. "I don't think it was amazing."
So imagine if the Heat did this.
Imagine if Erik Spoelstra said before a nationally televised game in San Antonio, one local fans paid big money to watch, that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen weren't playing.
They played too much. They needed rest. Would that be as easy for everone to accept? Would it be met with such a logical explanation about a too-busy schedule in a meaningless time of year?
In fact, imagine all the teams San Antonio has stiffed with a Triple-A lineup in recent years doing the same on trips there. Do you think Popovich would begin to understand a little better what he's doing to the NBA product around the league?
Sure, you can understand the basketball logic of Popovich's decision. Everyone knows the regular season's 82 games are too many. Everyone knows the Spurs' Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are well into their 30s (but 25-year-old Danny Green, too?).
So as the fallout to Popovich's decision began falling Thursday you had a lot of basketball media coming to his defense by explaining why it's smart for him to rest these players rather than play them.
People in my business, the media, are always quick to dissect decisions in coaching terms of winning and losing. And they seem to love the supposed way Popovich thumbs his clipboard at the league.
We didn't buy tickets two months ago. We didn't talk about this with our son for weeks. We didn't leave work early. We didn't drive 45 minutes to the arena. We didn't have to turn to our son upon hearing the news and say all the Spurs that matter flew back to San Antonio on a Southwest plane. ("Wanna get away?")
"I couldn't believe it,'' said Hector Lopez, of Miramar. "I'd never have bought these tickets."
He was in Section 310 of AmericanAirlines Arena, and people were nodding all around him at this bait-and-Spurs trick Popovich pulled. Popovich said he knew his Spurs would skip this game "as soon as the schedule came out."
So why not advertise it then?
Instead of the Spurs starting Ginobili, just say they'll play someone named Nando De Colo.
"I didn't hear of him until five minutes ago,'' TNT announcer Charles Barkley said.
You think TNT would televise this? Or not want a rebate if there's a chance of this happening again?
No wonder NBA Commissioner David Stern reacted quickly Thursday, saying, "This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."
It's one thing for Popovich to punk a market, as he's done in past years. But punk a broadcast partner spending hundreds of millions on the league?
Here's who else makes you wonder: The Spurs players. They have the second-best record in the league. Their six-game road trip ended in the dregs of Toronto, Washington and Orlando on Wednesday night (San Antonio won by 21 points).
If you're Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, don't you tell Popovich this is the game you want to play? That you'll sit out against any one of those other three? Instead they flew home.
Teams can rest players. Teams can rest full lineups without question once the playoffs are set. If you buy a ticket at the end of any season in sports, you understand that caveat.
But this is November. This was a big game. It became a big joke.
"It was best for our team,'' Popovich said.
If the team doesn't care about regular-season games, why should fans?
Follow at Twitter.com/davehydesports.