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NBA vows to sanction Spurs for resting regulars

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NBA vows to sanction Spurs for resting regulars

MIAMI (AP) The San Antonio Spurs will be punished by the NBA for their decision to send four top players home and not make them available to play in Miami against the Heat on Thursday night.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the decision to rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green - the core of the Spurs - was in the team's best interest. The league wasn't happy about it, and Commissioner David Stern promised that San Antonio would be penalized.

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

Stern's statement was released roughly the same time as tip-off in Miami for a nationally televised game.

Before the game, Popovich said he decided to sit his core when he saw how challenging this particular part of the schedule was for his team. Thursday's matchup ended a six-games-in-nine-nights swing for the Spurs, who won their first five on the trip.

``Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing,'' Popovich said before the game. ``In our case, this month we've had 11 away games, after tonight. We've had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we're ending it with four (games) in five nights here. I think it'd be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history.''

It's not unlike other moves Popovich has made before; in fact, not only did he give Duncan, Parker and Ginobili time off together toward the end of last season, which was condensed by a lockout, he actually flew home to San Antonio with them and took a two-game, pre-playoff sabbatical.

This time, when Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green flew home - reportedly on a Southwest Airlines flight on Thursday from Orlando, where the team played one night earlier - Popovich stayed with the Spurs for the trip to Miami.

Duncan is in his 16th NBA season, Parker his 12th and Ginobili his 11th. Green is a kid compared to those guys - 25 years old and a veteran of only 110 NBA games - but Popovich said he chose to rest him as well because Green has played a lot.

Green leads the Spurs with 496 minutes played this season, which was 44th-most in the NBA entering Thursday's games. The Spurs aren't expected to practice Friday, then they face Memphis on Saturday in San Antonio.

``Perhaps it'll give us an opportunity to stay on the court with Memphis on Saturday night,'' Popovich said. ``Historically, when you're on a long road trip, that first game when you come home is really tough. And Memphis is one of the best teams in the league. They're of much more concern to us than playing four games in five nights. It's pretty logical.''

Given Stern's statement, it's also logical to think that the Spurs could know their penalty by Saturday as well.

Popovich also said facing the Heat had nothing to do with his decision.

``I've gotten letters from those people before when I've done it and I understand their perspective totally,'' Popovich said. ``If I was taking my 6-year-old son or daughter to the game, I'd want him or her 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, what my priority is - the basketball team and what's best for it.''

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Popovich's move didn't affect Miami's preparation.

``Each organization has a big-picture view of what they are trying to get accomplished and I think the league respects that,'' Spoelstra said.

Popovich had Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills in his starting lineup. Besides the four players sent home, Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard are injured, meaning the Spurs had only four substitutes available.

``Obviously,'' Bonner said, ``we're a little short-handed.''

The Heat had one lineup move as well. With Shane Battier out with a sprained right knee, Spoelstra moved Rashard Lewis into Miami's starting lineup alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers.

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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

NEW YORK -- The NFL and the players' union have two new agreements to address player health in the areas of pain management/prescription medications, and behavior well-being.

The joint agreements, announced Monday, are designed to lead to advancement and understanding of dealing with pain and to improve potential treatments. The league and union also will add to programs already established in education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.

"I was hired two years ago and when I was hired I was asked about areas of concern," said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's medical chief. "And I said these were two areas I saw from my knowledge of someone taking care of athletes for over two decades. I felt a real need there."

"We've been working together with the players' union to come up with something that would work proactively for both. We have the same goal, to take care of the whole player and in a holistic way, and to focus on prevention."

Among the stipulations in the pain management area will be formation of a committee of medical experts appointed by the league and union that will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies in pain management and the use of prescription medication by players. The committee also will conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.

That committee will receive periodic reports from a newly developed prescription drug monitoring program that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians.

Each NFL club must appoint and pay for a pain management specialist before next season.

All this builds on the programs in place.

"We've had an electronically submitted health record for each club in place for a number of years," Sills said. "Medical providers enter the prescriptions they have given to the players. Periodically, our medical advisory committee and the NFL Physicians Society would issue white paper guidelines around strategies. The important change here is obviously it creates a committee tasked with overseeing our educational efforts -- the best practices around pain management."

All 32 teams now must retain by the start of training camp a behavioral health team clinician focused on supporting players' emotional and mental health and well-being. The old bromide of "toughing it out" when someone has such issues has long been discarded, Sills said.

"This is not novel to the NFL or to sports," Sills added. "It applies across all levels of society at all age groups and walks of life, and we know these are issues we need to address."

While the NFL and NFLPA have had previous joint programs in these health areas, Sills and NFLPA President Eric Winston note these initiatives are a major step forward in medical care.

"These agreements are positive developments for our membership as they will provide new and important resources to help players and their families," Winston said. "Our union has always advocated for advancements in health and safety and we think this work with the NFL is another important step to improve care for NFL players."

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. 

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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