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Report: Florida lawyer sues Spurs over strategic resting against Heat

Gregg Popovich The Spurs are reportedly being sued after coach Gregg Popovich strategically rested players against the Heat. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

A Florida lawyer is reportedly suing the Spurs after coach Gregg Popovich rested four of his players during a nationally televised game against the Heat in Miami in November.

ESPN.com reports that Larry McGuinness alleges that the Spurs violated Florida's "deceptive and fair trade practices law" when Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tony Parker to San Antonio rather than suit them up against the Heat.

On Monday, Larry McGuinness filed a class action suit in Miami-Dade County, stating that the team's head coach, Gregg Popovich, "intentionally and surrepticiously" [sic] sent their best players home without the knowledge of the league, the team and the fans attending the Nov. 29 game against the Heat. McGuinness contends that he, as well as other fans, "suffered economic damages" as a result of paying a premium price for a ticket that shouldn't cost more.

...

"It was like going to Morton's Steakhouse and paying $63 for porterhouse and they bring out cube steak," said McGuinness, who said he bought his ticket on the resale market. "That's exactly what happened here."

NBA commissioner David Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 for Popovich's strategic resting.

“The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case,” Stern said in a statement explaining the fine. “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. 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.”

Stern also issued an apology to fans shortly after Popovich's decision to rest his players became clear.

“I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”

Popovich, who had strategically rested players before without incurring a fine, didn't see anything wrong with resting his players against the Heat.

“We’ve done this before in hopes of making a wiser decision, rather than a popular decision,” Popovich told reporters, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s pretty logical.”

Stern's fine drew criticism from broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy and Celtics coach Doc Rivers, among others.

It's difficult to believe this lawsuit will prove successful. The Spurs who did show up didn't exactly play like "cube steak" or chopped liver, pushing the defending champions to the final minute before losing 105-100. Of course, the "$63 porterhouse" that McGuinness compares his ticket to doesn't quite work if he paid above face value on the secondary market. No one besides McGuinness can be held responsible for any price above the original value of the ticket and, it's worth noting for total clarity's sake, McGuinness paid for a ticket to a game between the Spurs and Heat, which he received. Unlike games on a nightly basis, it was even an entertaining one. If he purchased his ticket solely to see specific players, he surely assumes the risks that go with them not being available.

A better steakhouse analogy goes like this: McGuinness took a risk by paying premium to go to an elite steakhouse on a busy night. There, he was served a top-dollar steak that came out looking noticeably different from the picture on the menu, but still offered a top-shelf taste and was crafted as described. Is it understandable if he left a tad disappointed? Of course. Is McGuinness due exactly the steak pictured on the menu and are the Spurs legally obligated to refund his bill plus provide "economic damages"? Of course not.

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