DALLAS -- Mark Cuban believes the NBA was "absolutely" right to heavily fine the San Antonio Spurs because the Dallas Mavericks' owner considers protecting relationships with national television partners one of the league's top priorities.
Commissioner David Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 after coach Gregg Popovich opted to rest four players, including stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, for Thursday's game against the Miami Heat. The game, televised on TNT, was the Spurs' fourth in five nights.
In announcing the fine, Stern called the Spurs' actions a "disservice to the league and our fans." In Cuban's opinion, no fine would have been necessary if the game had not been on national television, but the commissioner was right
to react strongly under the circumstances.
"Look, I respect the Spurs," said Cuban before the Mavericks beat the Pistons 92-77 on Saturday night. "Pop is the best coach in the league. I understand why he did it. I might even take the fine if it was us, but I understand why the league (fined the Spurs). It maybe should have even been higher, because the amount at stake is enormous."
Cuban called the national television contracts "the money train" for the NBA, pointing out that those contracts are the difference in the league being profitable or not "by a long shot."
"We're still a business," said Cuban, whose fine totals from his 13-year ownership tenure are well into seven figures. "Resting the stars for the long haul one game earlier, one game later, sure. Resting when you've got our biggest customer at stake, that's a whole different animal.
"I'm not saying the Mavs wouldn't have done the same thing, but I realize that it'd be a fineable offense. And if it was me, it'd probably be 10 times as much."
The NBA office shares fault, in Cuban's opinion, for scheduling the Spurs to play on national television in their fourth game in five nights. Popovich wanted his key players to be well-rested for Saturday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies, a fellow contender in the Western Conference.
Cuban said he has complained to the league office before about putting teams on national television who have such scheduling circumstances, but those complaints fell on deaf ears.
Cuban expects Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to discuss with him plans to do something out of the ordinary, such as resting several starters. In that case, Cuban said he'd encourage his coach to do it in a game that is not nationally televised.
"It's just as stupid to put a team in their fourth game in five nights on national television," Cuban said. "That's just as dumb. You're not going to get as good of a performance, and that's what you want to show.
"So I guess you can make the counter-argument that even though the Spurs did what they did, the league was just as guilty for putting them in that position, which was pretty stupid."