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Popovich says hero-ball is ‘boring,’ which explains difference between Spurs and Lakers last-second shots

Nov 14, 2012, 1:02 PM EDT

Gregg Popovich AP

The Spurs beat the Lakers on Tuesday thanks to a three-pointer from Danny Green that put San Antonio up by two with 9.3 seconds left.

We broke down the beauty of the play that Gregg Popovich called — multiple screens, all players in motion, freeing up a shooter for a good look at the final shot.

The majority of teams, for some strange reason, choose isolation with their best player holding the ball and trying to score one-on-one with the game on the line. It’s counterintuitive, in that if during the entire course of the game you’d prefer set plays to free someone for an open look, instead of having guys try to create on their own to force tough shots over one or more defenders, why change the philosophy on a game’s most important possession?

There’s a reason Popovich is one of the game’s best minds– it’s because he does what makes sense. Though it would also seem his reasons are a bit selfish. (via Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop)

“I hate that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s so boring.”

What Popovich hates, of course, is the hero-ball isolation nonsense that I just described.

Whether it truly is due to boredom (doubtful, given Popovich’s famously-dry sense of humor) or whether it’s just the smarter decision, the Spurs choose to run plays on a final possession rather than trust one guy to do it all on his own.

Now, contrast that with the look that the Lakers got on their final possession.

The Bernie Bickerstaff era in Los Angeles will be neither historic nor looked back upon fondly, especially when considering the way L.A. failed to execute with the game in the balance.

With 9.3 seconds left, there’s a virtual eternity to get into something better than this.

Pau Gasol cuts to the corner, and receives the inbound pass behind the three-point line. He’s alone, save for Tim Duncan right there closely contesting whatever move Gasol would choose to make.

He had Kobe Bryant cutting to the basket, and even if he was late with the pass, Bryant would have had the ball on the low block with more than five seconds left, and with no help available from Duncan given his position defending Gasol. If Tiago Splitter decided to come over to contest, Bryant could have bounced it to Dwight Howard, who would have gotten fouled at the very least.

That would have been a decent choice, and Bryant may very well have been able to tie the game in that position. But it’s still not a good plan, and it looks even worse when Gasol launches a three over Duncan’s outstretched arms.

It’s one play, and the Lakers certainly are hopeful that with Mike D’Antoni firmly in place, their offensive options will look a lot more reasonable. But it’s a great example of what more teams should look to do on a game’s most critical possession, and it’s why Popovich has the Spurs consistently near the top of the league-wide standings.

  1. limonadamas - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    Popovich, Rivers, and Carlisle are all upper echelon coaches. It’s definitely a skill to do what they do so masterfully. Anyone who says coaches don’t matter in this league don’t know what they’re talking about.

    • lunds007 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:29 PM

      You are leaving out Rick Adelman…he is superior to Rivers and Carlisle but Popovich is the king of the hill. Jerry Sloan needs to get back into coaching also so I can see some more REAL basketball and less of this isolation crap.

      • limonadamas - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:54 PM

        Right. I forgot Adelman. Terrific offensive coach. I’d say that Rivers and Carlisle seem to be better player managers and in-game adjusters, but Adelman’s up there.

  2. lakerluver - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Yeah, consistently “near” the top but they haven’t “gotten” to the top since 2005. If I recall correctly, the LAKERS;while supposedly playing hero ball, last won a title in 2010. Who the heck does Pop think he is?! It’s funny how critics say Phil never won without stars. Well, Pop never won anything without Timmy, but he never gets criticized. Hey, Pop, 2005 was a long time ago!!!!

    • cramsinned - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:34 PM

      Game 7 2010. Kobe bryant tried to play hero ball, output? 6-24 from the field. He was bailed out by his team mates. What made them win? Team play!!!!!

      I’m sick of you protecting kobe’s sh*T

    • saint1997 - Nov 15, 2012 at 3:22 AM

      Dude there is something wrong with you. I see no problem in being a Lakers fan, but when you say things like that the all your credibility is flat out ruined. You’re a joke now. It is easy to insult one of the greatest basketball minds of all time while showing pure cowardice hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.

  3. lemfaxx - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Not so boring. He trusted everybody in the court. That simply it is

  4. limonadamas - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    hey lakerluver, i don’t think that’s a good argument. you’re just “inviting abuse,” as ph53 likes to say.

    i’m a huge Laker fan too. when they won a few years ago, they won with ball movement and execution, not hero ball. i think every Laker fan would be absolutely ECSTATIC to have a great coach like Popovich lead the team. true, he’s always had Duncan, but he’s developed guys like Parker, has ALWAYS made the most of his role players (unlike any recent Laker team, even Phil’s Lakers), and has always gotten his teams ready to play to the best of their potential.

    • badintent - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      YOu’re right, LL is wrong, and we are taking up a collection to buy a new Blowup Kobe doll for lakerluver.We’re getting the new model , it comes with Gary payton and Karl Malone, how that work for you Fakers in 2006 was a long time ago , eh ????

    • saint1997 - Nov 15, 2012 at 3:25 AM

      Hang on a second…this is impossible. Am I reading a comment from a well informed, rational and not completely overly arrogant lakers fan? Surely no

  5. lakerluver - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    He’s had the greatest pf ever for a decade, and two more HOF’ers for their entire careers. Not to mention he had the Admiral for the end of his career. Let’s see how many titles he wins after the Duncan Era ends. 2005 was a longgggg time ago!!

    • saint1997 - Nov 15, 2012 at 3:24 AM

      You’re just pissed because you lost and the lakers suck so far.

  6. therealgts - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    Geez Louise. You are without a doubt the most exhausting homer in all of cyberspace.

  7. eventhorizon04 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Pau Gasol Hero Ball
    “It was funny while it lasted”

  8. paulhargis53 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM


    In this world wide web age, there is no excuse for you posting such ignorance.
    The Spurs last title was 07.

    The rest of your diatribe was handled quite nicely by Limon, a fellow laker fan.

    You won’t listen though, you’re too much of a dumb a** homer.

    Even your laker brethren are tiring of your mindless, non researched posts.

    Kobe has played hero ball for the last 2 year’s, its why they are 1-8 in the last two 2nd round playoff series they have played.
    You think Popovich is an idiot now? You are such a flaming hypocrite. Anything. and I mean anything that slid against the lakers on the slightest, and thes PROFESSIONAL men need to shut up and they nothing. That’s ludicrous. Grow up dude, you’re 38 years old and you act,and,argue sports like an 8 year old.

    My team is the best cause I said so and if you say anything bad about my team you’re a dumbhead. That’s your arguments in a nutshell.

    I will be soooooo glad to see your dumb a** off of this site.

    • troy10 - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:21 PM


  9. misterdreamer119 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Carlisle champ, Doc champ, Pop multichamp, Phil mega champ. Phil was not into heroball. Thats why he left after shaq left, Kobe wanted break records and all.

  10. lakerluver - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    I speak FACTS, my friends. It’s a FACT the Spurs with the great coach Pop haven’t won jack since 05. It’s a FACT the LAKERS supposedly playing “hero ball” just won a title two years ago. Why does Pop get the credit for developing Parker? Are you implying had Parker been drafted elsewhere he wouldn’t have developed? And I’M a homer!! Holly, paulhargis53 (crap)!! Speaking of ph53, he’s irrelevant to me. He’s a “deadman walking”. He knows exactly what I mean.

  11. paulhargis53 - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Keep repeating 2005 dummy, when everyone else in the free world knows they won in 07. Jesus H Tapdancing Christ are you a dumb a**!

    You speak nothing but bull sh*t. You ever notice you are ALWAYS on the wrong side of these arguments?

    I’m nothing to you, yet you brought me up twice in one post……you’re trying to ignore me. You know I will strike a nerve and you’ll crack.

    I’m taking satisfaction in the fact that I’ve altered your posting habits.
    You’re too ignorant to have a debate so you run away, or say dead man walking lime its some sort of argument stopper.
    You’re pathetic and your as dumb as a bag of hammers.
    You’re a 38 year old man that acts and argues like he’s an 8 year old.

    8 year old, dude.

    • scalfor3 - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      i hope that was an intentional lebowski reference. no one f*cks with the jesus

    • saint1997 - Nov 15, 2012 at 3:29 AM

      Can we make an official club…”Lakerluver dislikers”, or alternatively “Informed people”

  12. bowwserr - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Lakerluver – As entertaining as your posts are, I am finding it mind-numbing that you state the Spurs haven’t won anything since 05. Then you get corrected by another commenter…and you come back and state yet again that the Spurs haven’t won anything since 05. They did win a championship in 2007, did they not? Was that championship meaningless? I just find it hard to understand…the entertainment you provide with your ignorance is quickly turning into an annoyance due to your lack of correctly stating facts. I’m not here to bash you, because you seem to be doing the job yourself, and very well I might add.

    Anyways, the Lakers will be fine, if not this year then next. It takes chemistry to win this game. Being a lifelong Spurs fan, I grow tired of the Megateams that come together late in their careers, but it’s become a part of the game, so I must accept it. These guys don’t know how to play together – yet. They’ll learn. And offensively they will be a force to be reckoned with. With that new coach of theirs, however, I fear there may not be anything positive to say about them defensively…

    I just hope that Kobe and Timmy make their final years epic for us fans. Make us remember the days when other teams absolutely feared you. Let us tell our grandchildren, “They were born into this game as Titans, they walked away from it as Titans.”

  13. ebrownwareagle - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Ahhh people what’s the argument?! LakerL ph53 is obviously not a Lakers or Kobe fan. Let him waddle in his misery; and continually pull stat after irrelavent stat that means nothing in an attempt to Discredit Kobe or The Lakers as being Great and Champions. Who cares when the Spurs last won a Ring. Lakers won 2 more after that and Kobe has more than the organization as a whole. So tuff Ph53 Live wit it or JUMP! Ya can’t change it. LA might not win this year NEWS FLASH: NO team wins every year. BUT they probably the have more Championships than your favorite team!!

    • scalfor3 - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      Not more than mine!

  14. UCFpirate - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    Here is a fun fact for Laker fans: Miami Heat are the current CHAMPIONS.

    • troy10 - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      so not relevant to the conversation.

    • eventhorizon04 - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      “Reigning champions”, not current champions

  15. ebrownwareagle - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:35 PM


    WRONG! 2011-2012 CHAMPS!! This is 2012-2013 = Nobody is the Champ yet. No consolation Prize this year because of last year. Gotta do All over Again!

  16. paulhargis53 - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    browneagle: Obviously, you aren’t a fan of punctuation. Holy hell was that tough to read.

    Also, you’d be wrong on the title department, my team has 17. GFY.

  17. ebrownwareagle - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Your sooo right Paul. Forgive me for forgetting the last one… It has been about 2 Decades since the team was relevant. I Do apologize. Please don’t Beat your wife!

  18. magicbucs - Nov 14, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    These are great posts guys! Very entertaining!
    All I have to say is..

    GO MAGIC! …lol Still a fan, even through the painful days ahead..

  19. paulhargis53 - Nov 14, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    Who cares when they were won17>16.

    At least my team can make it to a conference finals recently. 1-8 in the 2nd round for the last 2 year’s lakerboy.

    Don’t go beating another guys meat….I’m sure you’ve done that about 5 times today though, carry on.

  20. ebrownwareagle - Nov 14, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    Paula Poo. Come on stop it I say!! Forgive me for not taking into consideration this was your week on the Rag! I see your estrogen levels are high! Don’t freak out and do anything crazy Sweetie!

  21. davidly - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Win or lose, he’s the best at getting his roster to play team ball.

  22. jerdogthompson - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Sounds like an outright dig on Kobe to me.

  23. paulhargis53 - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    bigbrowneye: That’s all you got? Calling me a girl’s name? Holy sheep sh*t!

    You aren’t worth my time to go back and forth with if you’re going to come with weak a** crap like that.

  24. paulhargis53 - Nov 14, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    Scalfor it certainly was! I’m glad you caught it!

  25. realninerfan22 - Nov 14, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    Hero ball is boring cuz he doesn’t have a player like kobe, d wade, durant, melo, lbj. He has no choice but to play team ball. Kobe, mj combined 11 rings, hero ball sure worked out for them.

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