The NBA fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 on Friday for leaving four players home to rest before their game Thursday night in Miami against the Heat.
Commissioner David Stern said in a statement that the Spurs cheated the league and the fans by not bringing Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tony Parker along for the finale of their six-game road trip, a 105-100 loss to the Heat.
"The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case," Stern said. "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."
According to the statement, the Spurs violated a rule against resting players in a manner that is "contrary to the best interests of the NBA."
League rules require teams to report when a player will not travel because of an injury as soon as they know.
The Heat rallied to beat the Spurs 105-100.
"Listen, it's a player's league," Spurs coach Greg Popovich told Yahoo! Sports. "I think it's very important for a coach to make sure that his players believe 100 percent -- and not with lip service -- that it's about them. Coaches are going to do everything they can to create that environment for them. It's not about creating an environment for us. It's a privilege to be able to coach these guys. We make enough money."
The three top stars of the team are over 30 years of age. Tim Duncan is 36, Ginobili 35 and Parker 30.
The game was televised on TNT. Popovich said after the game Thursday his decision to rest the players had nothing to do with TV; it was about keeping his veterans fresh for their next game.
Popovich has won four NBA titles as the Spurs coach and is known for how well he manages his players minutes.
"We have done this before in hopes we are making a wiser decision instead of a macho decision," he said Thursday. "Perhaps it will give us a chance to stay on the court with Memphis.
"It is pretty logical. I don't think it was a tough decision at all. In fact, the decision was made when the schedule came out."
The Spurs host the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.