If you were watching NBA action last night, the early time-slot marquee matchup was the San Antonio Spurs against the defending champions, the Miami Heat. The game was a close fought affair, with Ray Allen hitting a clutch 3-point shot down the stretch to give the Heat the 105-100 win.
However, the topic of discussion was that legendary Spurs Head Coach, Gregg Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home the night before of the final game of a brutal six game, in nine night road trip.
The Spurs, who have won four NBA Championships during “Pops” reign as head coach, have been know to rest their veterans at times to survive the grueling 82-game regular season schedule to prepare for the playoff push. Popovich obviously is sensitive to the “marathon” which is the regular season, so his veterans can make their annual push in the “sprint” that is the NBA playoffs.
Popovich, highly regarded and a true ambassador of the game, did acknowledge, “If I was taking my 6-year-old son or daughter to the game, I would want them to see everybody, and if they weren’t there, I’d be disappointed. So I understand that perspective. Hopefully, people in that position will understand my perspective. My priority is the basketball team and what is best for it.”
As a coach, I of course, side with Popovich and will be interested to see the discipline that Commissioner David Stern has vowed to serve.
However, this for me is not the story. The real story is that the players went home the night before, from Orlando to San Antonio…on a commercial Southwest Airlines flight.
Can you imagine that?
Imagine taking this flight from Orlando to San Antonio on a random Wednesday night in late November. Hopefully you are in Group A or B. If not you have to wait until the C group boards. That’s annoying. Even more annoying than that may be that you have to ask your fellow passengers what number they are when you board your group. This seems like an apparent “icebreaker” strategy by Southwest so that its passengers meet each other before they board the plane. Maybe this is a marketing strategy to increase passenger comfort and therefore future sales. Either way it makes you feel like the first day of kindergarten.
“Mr. Duncan, I am A36. I think your ticket says you are in A37.”
“No problem Mr. Parker, I see you are A35. Go right ahead.”
So as you board the plane in between of the two future NBA Hall of Famers, the stewardess notifies the passengers that the plane is going to be at capacity. As you select your aisle seat, you realize that these are not regular passengers. They are BIG human beings. Knees and elbows are all over the place. They jam their carry-ons into the overhead compartments and scrunch your personal items.
“I hope that bottle of Key Lime BBQ sauce didn’t explode.”
Next Duncan, Parker and Ginobili sit behind you. Great. Again knees are in your back and the perennial All-Stars cannot get comfortable. They toss and jostle all flight long. If they were screaming, you would think that they were a bunch of four-year olds who were out of control.
On the other hand, Mr. Green is sitting in front of you and he reclines his seat which seems like it goes extra far back. He is in your lap basically. Now you are having a tough time doing the sudoku puzzle in the complimentary Spirit magazine.
These players are too much.
“Peanuts or pretzels, Mr. Ginobili?”
Mr. Ginobili asks for the heart-shaped goldfish crackers. The flight is full and they are out. You have to be kidding Southwest! You know how Mr. Ginobili gets when he doesn’t get his heart-shaped goldfish crackers.
Now, Mr. Duncan heads to the restroom in the back of the plane. You don’t even want to imagine him jamming his 260 lb, 6’11” frame into that tiny space. It’s tough for normal sized people, never mind “The Big Fundamental.”
The seatbelt sign comes on and you cannot wait for the plane to land. As you begin your descent, you have to listen to Parker talk about how he hates landing and begins to tap the back of your seat in nervous anticipation. Really?
You are not out of the woods yet though. Other passengers turn their phones on and snag a picture or text/call a family member to tell them who is on board with them. Now you have random strangers who are coming into your personal space. Asking you to snap a shot or two.
“Can you please hold the iPhone camera a second or two after you push the button or the picture comes out blurry.”
You have an iPhone, but you are not a professional photographer so you “appreciate” the tip.
As you pull up to the gate, you still have to wait for the NBA Champs to grab their items since yours are squished in the back. More waiting. You start to smell Key Lime BBQ sauce.
“Geez, it is hot in here,” declares Green.
Yeah, thanks ‘Master of the Obvious.’
Eventually you begin to deplane and you are very excited to get off this flight. Great no baggage claim, you just want to get out of here. However, Duncan is holding up the deplaning because he was to get the Southwest credit card so he can get the reward points.
“If I take a few more flights, I will be eligible for a free flight!”
“Come on, you have to be joking Tim!”
Thankfully your experience comes to an end and you head to your peaceful abode.
Or you could just ask for their autographs…
Or maybe the Spurs could upgrade them to business class…
Or maybe you should have just went to see the Spurs vs. Heat game to get away from them…
“You are now free to move about the country.”
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo