SAN ANTONIO -- The feigned look of shock upon the face of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told the story.
When informed before Sunday’s game that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers would not play against the Spurs, Popovich laid the sarcasm on thick. Earlier this season, it was Popovich who sent his six leading scorers home to San Antonio at the end of a road trip and played the Heat with a skeleton crew. Now, in Popovich’s estimation, it was the Heat’s time to spite San Antonio.
“What kind of [expletive] is that?” said Popovich, putting his whole body into the performance like some Shakespearian stage actor.
Popovich stumbled backward and held his heart.
“Who’d think of something like that?” Popovich said. “That’s below the belt. There’s no place for that."
In other words, touché.
Popovich was fined $250,000 by the NBA for his stunt, which happened on a Thursday night in Miami for a nationally televised game by TNT.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said resting James and Wade because of minor injuries had nothing to do with Popovich’s previous decision to rest his players.
“I can see where you guys would draw those conclusions, but no,” Spoelstra said when asked whether his move to rest James and Wade had anything to do with the Popovich’s strategy.
Unlike when Popovich sent his stars home to avoid the Heat, the NBA issued no statements regarding the Heat’s decision to rest James, Wade and Chalmers. James sat out with a sore right hamstring, according to Spoelstra, and Wade needed the night off after he “re-tweaked every minor injury he had in the New Orleans game.” Chalmers missed his second game in a row with an injury to his right ankle.
“Mario now hasn’t had a lot of progress actually in the last couple days, so we’ll just have to slow down and see how he feels day by day,” Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra added that James was held out of the fourth quarter against the Hornets on Friday because of his injury. He had 36 points after three quarters, and the Heat held a large advantage.
“We have a deep team for a reason, and we never know or can predict what will happen in the playoffs,” Spoelstra said. “And this is a perfect example of it. This was unforeseen.”
James, Wade and Chalmers are questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Knicks. Spoelstra said they would be “reevaluated” on Monday.
With nine games remaining in the season and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs wrapped up, the Heat has the luxury of resting its players for the upcoming playoffs. Last season, Spoelstra referred to it as the Heat’s “maintenance program.”
“We’ll have a day-by-day approach,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously, our health will be the No.1 thing but, secondly, we want to continue to improve, and we don’t want to lose sight of that.
“But you’re getting to this time of year and virtually every team is dealing with something and we had a stretch of 17 games and this will be our 18th in the month and so, knock on wood, we’ve survived that stretch pretty well. But guys have gotten a little nicked up, and we’ll manage that every day.”