Aug 31, 2012, 10:15 AM EDT
Gregg Popovich is 63 years old. He is able to play, convincingly, the part of the crusty old basketball coach, barking at players coming off the floor for a timeout (no matter how many All-Star appearances they have), grousing at reporters, and generally being a mean sonofagun in most of his appearances to the public. That could be who he is. He could be a snuggly-wuggly teddy bear, but I’ll let you ask him if that’s his true identity.
When talks begin in roughly a month about the NBA season as training camp opens, when the initial rush of football descends from a fever-pitched roar to… well, OK, it’s pretty much a softer fever-pitched roar, there will be talk about the Heat and Lakers. LeBron James and Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and his Thunder, even some mentions of what Jason Terry does for the Celtics. The Spurs will be mentioned, but only in passing. Spurs fans will go apoplectic over this and then dismiss the national media, all the while tuning in the next time to once again go through the process. And the Spurs really shouldn’t be considered title contenders this season. They will almost assuredly win enough games to land in the top three of the West, and then will be defeated by a better defensive team because, well, God is apparently not without a sense of humor.
But what will also pass quietly is that we could very well be looking at the second-to-last season for Popovich in the NBA. There have been jokes and comments about Popovich retiring the second that Tim Duncan walks away. Duncan just re-signed for two more years with a player option for a third. If Duncan walks away when he can ditch the player option to get it off the Spurs’ books, something he would do because he’s that kind of guy, this could be Popovich’s second-to-last camp. That’s not a big deal. It could be his second-to-last. So there will be no huge arching narratives. Even when it is, there likely won’t be.
Popovich doesn’t take laps. He’s never given access to an author for a book, he’s never authored a book. He’s not doing lecture tours or commercials. And in the press there’s little-to-no self-aggrandizement wrapped in philosophies or shots at his competitors. He’s complimentary to his opponents, he’s complimentary to his players, he’s short with the press. There has been no indication given in his career that any of this is about anything but basketball for Popovich.
Gregg Popovich, as hilarious as he is, is mostly abrasive to members of the media. Yet he’s treated like a cult hero by most. It’s amazing
— Zach McCann (@ZachMcCann) August 30, 2012
Popovich manages to be able to brutalize the press and be revered for it because he wins. The process works. Bear in mind that both Popovich and George Karl, a very different breed of the same species, are trying to win a title with an offense-first approach which historically runs counter to the most basic concepts (and cliches) about playoff basketball. But Popovich has not only managed to have a good team with this approach, despite not having a roster traditionally thought of in such terms, but has put together the team with the best record in the West the past two seasons. Those same concepts (an cliches) are what have been their downfall, but consider how difficult it must have been to get players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Many Ginobili, and Stephen Jackson to adjust and go from a defense-first approach to an offense-first approach.
Popovich does this by being a coach that his players not only respect as his own man, but genuinely like. Consider this from a recent Spurs.com interview:
Location: Los Angeles
Question: Who are some of your favorite musical artists, and any amazing live shows you’ve seen come to mind?
GP: The last live show I’ve seen was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And they’re still one of my favorites, you know the old stand-bys. I was a big Motown guy for a long time, being from that part of the country, and that sort of morphed into Jimmy Hendrix, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Led Zepplin, those kind of guys. And being here in Texas you can’t help but hear country music here and there. Everybody takes a different path in life and about three years ago I started listening to a Patsy Cline album and it just blew me away. I just am still amazed by her voice, and the guys and my family say “jeez, are we going to listen to that again?” So that’s the newest one, and another one: Terri Clark. Somebody gave me a CD by her, a country gal, and I love it. It’s really great. So I listen to that, and everything else is sort of foreign. It’s Egyptian, Usef, he’s an Egyptian guy, or Turkish music. That kind of thing. So pretty strange, a lot of different things.
What about any of Stephen Jackson’s?
Jack used to try to give me some of his tapes, but, first of all I couldn’t even understand what was going on, and some of them you could even dance to, but once I started hearing what they were saying and everything I just gave them back.
That’s actually a pretty revealing answer. Popovich is open to a lot of things. That kind of contradicts his crusty nature, but it’s representative of what we know about him from his background. A guy who has spent years overseas as an intelligence officer is probably going to be open to more than one way of looking at the world, or a problem. And he’s the kind of coach who Stephen Jackson gives his mixtape to. The fact that he can’t even understand, let alone enjoy, what Jackson’s rapping about is irrelevant. This is Stephen Jackson, and he’s giving his coach his album.
Something tells me the same will not be happening with Tom Thibodeau.
(Note: I don’t think Thibodeau listens to any music. When he’s done watching film I would think he either sleeps or sits in a dark room with the sound of a practice playing.)
Popovich has managed to contradict everything. He’s one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, and he’s one of the least famous. He’s a fervent stickler for defensive intensity who is now reliant upon his team scoring. He’s got an extremely imposing background, and little time for nonsense, yet has connected with modern NBA players and gotten them to not only commit but look up to him, because of the respect he gives them. He gives journalists little to no respect, and receives the same adoration.
Nothing about the Church of Popovichtology makes sense, and when his day is through, there will be no expose. No one will walk through the gates and explore all it secrets. He’ll simply lock the gate, turn, and walk home to his vineyard with a good book and without a look back.
Jun 19, 2013, 3:33 AM EDT
At shootaround on Tuesday before Game 6, Chris Bosh said that hot shooting Spur Danny Green wasn’t going to get clean looks at threes. Then, with the Spurs having one last shot in overtime to tie the game, Bosh made sure his words were good by blocking a Green desperation three to tie the game.…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:29 AM EDT
MIAMI — After suffering a brutal Game 6 loss that the Spurs had every reason to believe would turn out in their favor, one of the team’s key veterans wasn’t exactly optimistic that they’ll find a way to bounce back emotionally in time for Thursday’s Game 7. Manu Ginobili was the Game 5 hero for…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:24 AM EDT
For three quarters, as it has been for much of the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs execution was just too much for the Heat to handle — the Spurs shot 50 percent, they played smart defense, they moved the ball, Tim Duncan was playing like a man possessed with 30 points and 14 rebounds,…
Ray Allen giving Heat exactly what they expected this season, including his clutch 3-pointer in Game 6
Jun 19, 2013, 2:06 AM EDT
Ray Allen faced a potentially awkward moment before he even played his first game with the Miami Heat. Not only were the Heat facing his old team, the Boston Celtics, his new teammates were receiving their 2012 championship rings. Miami had won a hard-fought seven-game series over Allen’s Celtics on its way to the title,…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:53 AM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs were on the brink of winning a championship. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, they held a five-point lead, were on a 10-2 run over the last four minutes, and fans were heading for the exits while arena staffers lined the court to rope off the crowd in preparation for…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:27 AM EDT
Chris Bosh, the Heat’s center, was the Miami player who took the necessary step of declaring Danny Green was done getting open looks. When push came to shove, Bosh – the Heat’s center (!) – backed up his words, which really should have come from one of the perimeter players who kept leaving Green open.…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:55 PM EDT
Ray Allen is amazingly, incredibly clutch. This is exactly why the Heat wanted him from Boston. What a huge shot. If the Heat win this series, that will go down as one of the greatest shots in Finals history. Allen and LeBron James will get credit for making 3-pointers to send Game 6 to overtime,…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:43 PM EDT
Tony Parker, who made the defining play of the series, his twisting, shot-clock beating clincher in Game 1, is at it again. He stepped back to create space for a game-tying 3-pointer, got a steal on the other end and then drove into the paint for a short jumper to put San Antonio up by…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:29 PM EDT
The Spurs entered the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a 10-point lead, but the Heat are fighting back. Two shoes or one, they’re not quitting. I don’t know why the Spurs called timeout after Mike Miller made that 3-pointer without his shoe. I’d want to attack him on the other…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
That was a great game. And Game 7 sets up to be something special. For three quarters San Antonio’s execution was too much for Miami and the Spurs entered the fourth up 10 (75-65) and just 12 minutes away from a title. Tim Duncan had been a force, with countermoves spinning Chris Bosh around and…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:26 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan. Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:51 PM EDT
Mike Miller remained in the starting lineup, but that merely made him the guy in the way of Kawhi Leonard. This ferocious dunk gave Leonard eight early points after he made a three-point play and a 3-pointer.
Jun 18, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
MIAMI — Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that a lineup change might be possible in advance of Game 6, but wasn’t going to reveal it until absolutely necessary. “I’ll turn in my card at 45 minutes,” he said. There was no lineup change to be found when the time came, however, as three-point specialist…
Jun 18, 2013, 6:44 PM EDT
Miami has gone very small against the Spurs — and it worked at first, the Heat won a game and forced the Spurs to adjust to them. However a consequence of that has been Chris Andersen has slid out of the rotation. The Birdman’s size was key against the large Pacers front line last series,…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:59 PM EDT
Kansas’ Ben McLemore was pretty much a top three pick on everybody’s board a month ago, but he may be sliding down some boards right now. In part that is because the smooth-shooting guard out of Kansas didn’t help his cause in some recent workouts, reports Chad Ford at ESPN.com (Insider). Multiple sources told me…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT
I know, there’s some irony to Chris Bosh talking about physical play. But the thing is, he’s right — the Miami Heat have to come out with their best defensive effort they are not going on to a Game 7. They need to stick with shooters on the perimeter, make crisp rotations and stop cheating…
Jun 18, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
No. The Spurs could lose Game 6 and then win Game 7 to win the title. Previously: Is Game 5 a must-win for the Spurs or Heat?
Jun 18, 2013, 3:24 PM EDT
Although the Celtics would be in a tough spot if they don’t trade with the Clippers, Los Angeles doesn’t face the same pressure. Acquiring Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and maybe Paul Pierce is one option of many. The Clippers will continue interviewing Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw and Byron Scott, and if they choose the best…
Jun 18, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
Monta Ellis has told the Milwaukee Bucks he is opting out of the $11 million he is owed next season become a free agent this summer. As noted at the time, it would be interesting to see what teams would go after a volume shooter — he scored 19.2 points a game but shot just…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT
While the NCAA and its ridiculous rules force American college players to make their draft decisions much earlier, international players and those not in college have longer to make their decision. That deadline was today and 18 players pulled out the league announced. The biggest one we already knew, Dario Saric of Croatia. DraftExpress had…
- A ‘devastated’ Manu Ginobili says he has no clue how Spurs will re-energize in time for Game 7 1
- Spurs execution fails them when it matters most. Can they get it back for Game 7? 4
- Heat force a Finals Game 7 with thrilling overtime win over Spurs 7
- NBA Finals Game 6: Heat comeback in fourth, win in overtime to force Game 7 96
- PBT Extra: Talking Duncan, LeBron legacies; plus Game 6 12
- NBA Finals Game 6: Heat comeback in fourth, win in overtime to force Game 7 (96)
- If Spurs win, it is LeBron’s legacy that will take biggest hit (83)
- Lakers unlikely to sign and trade Dwight Howard to the Clippers, Rockets, or anyone else (81)
- LeBron James: “I just have to play better” (78)
- Heat’s Big Three dominate Game 4 to even the Finals at two games apiece (74)
- Heat rally to beat Spurs in Game 6
- PBT: After blowing lead, can Spurs rebound in Game 7?
- PST: On-fire Altidore lifts USA over Honduras in WCQ
- CSN: Patriots' Hernandez questioned in murder investigation
- CSN: Celtics-Clippers KG, Rivers trade talks dead
- HBT: Mets' Wheeler goes six scoreless in MLB debut
- Lolo Jones' attempt at humor backfires
- Play Video: Bosh: 'We'll see who hits first'
- Play Video: PBT Extra: LeBron's legacy at stake, Duncan's safe
- Play Video: Clippers, Celtics discussions 'can't be wrong'
- Play Video: Elliot looks ahead to Game 6
- Play Video: The Hype: How much would you pay to punch someone?
- Play Video: If Heat lose, 'all hell will break loose'