IN DECEMBER, 2012, former NBA commissioner David Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 because coach Gregg Popovich sat four healthy players - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Danny Green - for a nationally televised marquee matchup against the Miami Heat.

He said he wanted to make sure they were fresh for the playoffs, which were a few months away.

"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 . . . Under the circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans."

Unfortunately, Stern made it about violating a rule requiring teams to notify the opponent, the league office and the media in advance if a player will miss a game.

That did not address the primary issue.

I wrote in a column that Stern should have fined the Spurs $1 million per player to give strong warning to all of the teams that healthy scratches of star players was a matter of which the league strongly disapproved.

Instead, Stern's paltry fine was taken as tacit approval.

Less than a year later, Popovich rested Duncan against the Sixers in the Spurs' only visit to Philadelphia. It was their eighth game of the 2013-14 season.

This was only a couple of weeks after Miami coach Erik Spoelstra had rested All-Star Dwyane Wade for the Sixers home opener.

I again railed against this growing trend in another column, saying it was a bad business for the NBA.

I called resting healthy star players borderline consumer fraud from a league that heavily marketed stars to sell tickets.

Now, resting stars at any point of a season is common practice.

The league office had remained neutral about it until now.

On Monday, ESPN reported it had obtained a memo that current NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent to team owners saying that resting marquee players was an "extremely significant issue for our league."

I'd like to say that Silver Googled my past columns and had an epiphany.

The truth is that he reacted to the stir created by the Cleveland Cavaliers sitting LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for a nationally televised prime-time game at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

Silver said the issue will be discussed at the NBA Board of Governors meeting on April 6.

"Decisions of this kind . . . can affect fans and business partners, impact our reputation and damage the perception of our game," Silver wrote in the memo, which was obtained by the Associated Press and other media outlets. "With so much at stake, it is simply not acceptable for governors to be uninvolved or to defer decision-making authority on these matters to others in their organizations."

Those "others in their organizations" would be general managers and head coaches.

After Cavaliers general manager David Griffin got a call from the league office, he told ESPN: "They're paying me to win a championship. I'm not overly concerned about the perception of it."

That's a legitimate argument, particularly because general managers and coaches tend to get fired when they don't meet expectations.

Still, Silver has shifted 180 degrees from April 2015 when he said that he felt for the fans, but that it would be a "very slippery slope for the league office to start getting in the business of telling a coach or team what minutes a player should play."

It's a complex issue.

Fatigue can increase the risk of injury, and resting a player for a few games during a season could help prevent him from getting an injury that would require him to sit out more games - although that didn't work in the case of Sixers rookie Joel Embiid.

Fans, however, buy tickets to see star players and television ratings are higher when stars go against one another.

Injury, illness or family emergencies can't be predicted, but other than that, fans should reasonably expect that marquee players will play.

The league has to find a way to balance this issue.

It might be as simple as adjusting the 82-game schedule for next season.

There will be fewer preseason games and a week has been added to the regular season to help reduce the need to schedule back-to-backs and four games in five days.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr said he rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala in a nationally televised game against San Antonio two weeks ago because the Warriors were playing eight games in eight cities over 13 days spanning 11,000 miles of travel.

If, however, the league wants to really get serious about putting the issue to rest - pun intended - I suggest the extreme step of mandating that a player who sits out a game must also sit out the following game.

That would stop healthy scratches, but it would make a coach think hard before doing it, especially if the idea is to rest multiple players.

I doubt Silver would go that far. Still, it is good that he has finally acknowledged that it is bad for the NBA product when fans buy tickets to see superstar players and then are told they're resting to get ready for the playoffs.

@SmallTerp