By HOWARD ULMAN, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers criticized the NBA's fine against the San Antonio Spurs after they kept four top players out of a game.
He said Friday he didn't think the $250,000 fine announced by Commissioner David Stern would stop coaches from sitting players.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back to San Antonio before Thursday night's 105-100 loss at the Miami Heat. It ended a six-game road trip in which the Spurs played four games in the last five days.
Before Thursday's game, Stern said ''substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.''
That ''reaction'' to the absence of the players ''was probably overdone,'' Rivers said before Boston's game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, ''and then, all of a sudden, you have to have an action'' by punishing the Spurs.
And he said he didn't like the penalty.
''I do get the other side, but it's a tough one,'' he said. ''You've got to coach your team to win in the long run and you have to do whatever you need to do. If that's sitting players, you sit players.''
The Spurs ''did a disservice to the league and our fans,'' 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.''
But Rivers said he didn't think the punishment would influence coaches to use players if they don't want to play them.
''Whatever is going to help your team win, a coach is going to do,'' he said, ''because if you don't and it hurts your team then you're the one that won't be around.''
So he won't avoid sitting players out because the Spurs were fined.
''We'll do it when we want to do it and we should be able to do it,'' Rivers said. ''It could be early in the season, the end of the season.''
Rivers was without point guard Rajon Rondo on Friday night because of another NBA decision - a two-game suspension resulting from a scuffle during Wednesday night's 95-83 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. He'll also miss Saturday night's game at the Milwaukee Bucks.
Rondo was ''not happy,'' Rivers said. ''He expected it. He didn't know (how long) it was going to be. We didn't make a big deal of it.''
Courtney Lee started in his place on Friday night.