Trust In Pop: No Other Way For Spurs

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – After coaching a combined 1,536 regular-season and playoff games over 17 seasons, what still motivates San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich from day to day? Is it the teaching? The film study and preparation? The tactical decisions within the actual games?

“I think dinner after the game,” Popovich said dryly as only he can. “Those things are hard. It’s not fun, I know that.”

Pop must’ve had a satisfying meal Saturday night after the Spurs clawed back from down 18 early for a 103-94 overtime victory to seize a commanding 3-0 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals. Popovich’s 1,034rd career victory (regular season and playoffs) and 208th in the postseason moved him one win away from coaching in a fifth NBA Finals.

He and Tim Duncan, the two constants over this once-in-a-lifetime marathon of success, are on the verge of appearing in a Finals in three consecutive decades. Their first of four championships came in 1999 and was followed by titles in 2003, ’05 and ’07. After losing a 2-0 lead last season to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the favorite to win the West again until Russell Westbrook‘s unfortunate knee injury in the first round, the Spurs, who every year seem to be on their last, best chance to make it back, appear that they certainly will this time.

Although the Grizz have taken the last two games to overtime, they’ve been overmatched by the Spurs’ depth and their undeterred, everlasting trio of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, a Big Three that first took the floor together a decade ago.

“It’s amazing. It’s amazing being on this team and playing with those guys,” said Boris Diaw, who had his playoff battles against the Spurs when with the Phoenix Suns and was rescued out of Charlotte by a fortuitous trade last season. “They still play the same way. They’ve been playing great for years now together and they’re still the same leaders of this team.”

And Popovich is still coaching the same way, Duncan said, although these days far less frequently while wearing a neck tie on game nights.

“His fire and his passion is there and just like the rest of us he knows the opportunity we have here and how fleeting it is,” Duncan said before team’s late Sunday morning practice. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been there. We know the work it takes, we know how special it is and I guess you get a better appreciation for having gone that far and been that close for many years, and we just want to get back.”

Their first chance to lock up their first West title since ’07 comes Monday night in Game 4 back at the FedExForum.

“I think we should give them no hope,” Parker said. “And it’s always sweet to win on the road.”

The theme of the game will be to get it done for Timmy, now 37 and recently selected to the All-NBA First Team after a spectacular renaissance of a season.

“It would be amazing and hopefully I can talk about it more after a win [Monday],” Parker said. “Let’s focus on [Monday] and then we got, what, 10 days to talk about that.”

The Spurs are 11-2 this postseason and can complete a second sweep. Four times they’ve been taken to overtime and once, in the remarkable Game 1 comeback against Golden State, were challenged to two overtimes. Three times they were the fresher team in the extra period despite the high-mileage legs of their three stars.

Popovich gave no credence to his rigid management of minutes during the regular season as playing a role now, but his players certainly suggested that they felt good in Saturday’s overtime for a reason when they outscored Memphis, 18-7.

“I always trust Pop,” Parker said. “Whatever Pop decides is good with me.”

Trust is the operative word with the Big Three and their coach. Ultimate respect swings both ways. Pop will lay into his stars as quickly as a role player who erred. And the players hold each other accountable, too, such as when Duncan’s pass intended for Parker missed its target and skidded out of bounds. The two barked at each as they retreated on defense.

“I have a great deal of confidence in them and they’ve earned that,” Popovich said. “They’ve been together. They’re all very competitive. They may or may not do something perfectly, but they’re going to do it to the best of their ability. That allows one to go to bed at night and deal with whatever the consequences are.”

54 Comments

  1. Steven Kunzer says:

    Being a Spurs fan for years and years has been so rewarding. Basketball goes through so many fads over the course of one season. For there to be a year after year squad that has won title with players in different roles each time is amazing. They are the ideal sports franchise. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu kick it into gear and show how good they really are in the important part of the marathon that is the Nba. This is as close as it gets to the old Boston teams will Bill Russell. I’m in awe and ten years ago I wouldn’t have believed the same dudes are getting it done to this day.

  2. SpursPilipinas says:

    The Spurs is not a team. It’s a FAMILY… UR FAMILY

    • RGV guy says:

      Spurs are a family. They are not only part of our families in San Antonio, but even further south into the Rio Grande Valley. My respect goes out to all the players on the roster for keeping their game clean and drama free. Love to see team BB!

  3. spursfan20 says:

    Grab the broom !
    #SAS

  4. Edgar says:

    How could you not trust the guy…. 4 RINGS!!! I mean really?!… Why would you even question that….

  5. Jeff says:

    I thought San Antonio was the only team that would give Miami a tough series. I still think that.

  6. geoffrey86 says:

    Can’t wait to see S.A. show Miami what a true champion looks like. The Spurs have all the ingredients on their roster, with Pop at the top guiding the ship, and as underdogs, a victory over the Heat would be the sweetest of the titles for San Antonio. It’s going to take a total team effort against Lebron and Co., but I feel great confidence with their depth, experience, and character, in spite of not having home court advantage. Let’s do it!

  7. geoffrey86 says:

    Can’t wait to see S.A. show Miami what a true championship team looks like. It’s not going to be easy, but the
    Spurs have all the ingredients, including Pop at the top, to shine and rise to the challenge one more time.

  8. OKC says:

    In general I approve of how the Spurs handle themselves. They never lose their heads, and Pop is not only the best coach in the NBA, but he also might be the funniest.

    I’m not the kind of fan to hate the heat for beating us out last year, but I will be routing for the Spurs in the finals. One more ring for Timmy and Manu (Parker could still get another at his age).

  9. Big Al says:

    Not a Spurs fan but I give credit where it’s due. One can only imagine what Pop can do with the Lakers if he were head coach there. He knows how to make use of what he has in his arsenal. Bonner, once only a three-point shooter, is now a decent defender. Danny Green has also cemented his spot as a proper starter. It really helps if these guys have the right mentor to extract the most out of them. It also goes to show that team chemistry is better than raw player talent. The Spurs are not the best lineup, but their style, while unexciting, is very fluid and effective. They certainly won’t be the favorites in their likely clash with the Heat, but with the way they’re going, it’s not impossible for them at all to snatch the trophy.

  10. Candidate says:

    Pop for President.

  11. CG says:

    Diaw was picked up after Charlotte waived him, not due to a trade.

  12. mayor kone says:

    spurs are the best of the best. god help to win it all !

  13. Randy Lall says:

    Although Lakers are my team, Pop is da man, and quite possibly the greatest coach in this generation.

    If there is any coach that deserve a jersey, its Pop, and I would buy it, lol

  14. Javier says:

    It is about respect between coach and players. But they have one more thing, Manu Ginobili the best international player, ever.

    • JS says:

      NO! So wrong!
      If we talk present time Dirk is so much better! If you talk “ever” you have Dražen Petrović! You can ask the “dream team” about the last guy…

      • manu is the Best of this decade and petrovic is the best of his decade… respect! it’s different opinion..

      • JS says:

        Petrović is a hall of famer…. MG won’t become a HF.
        Still, Dirk is better than MG. MG is good, don’t get me wrong. But he’s not the one who carries the team.
        He’s “”JUST”” a two time all-star and a sixth man of the year.

  15. Kirk says:

    Pop has done something oh so similar to that of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. A different sport I know but he has been a consistent coach with a great hunger and desire to win. Just like Sir Alex he chooses players with the right mentality, hence the lack of drama through the years. Spurs v Miami in the Finals would be epic, lets just hope both can finish their business.

  16. KATE says:

    Go Spurs!!!! I love seeing TD, MG, TP together on the court.

  17. J says:

    POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POP POPOVICH!!!!!!

    sweep is coming!

  18. HeatBandwagoner says:

    Cant wait for this years finals where the Heat and Spurs will write history. Lets all spread the love for the Game and may the best team prevail. Respect to Pop.

  19. RC says:

    Spurs are model team in modern sports.
    Go Spurs Go!
    Lots of respect to TD and Pop.

  20. Armando says:

    San Antonio Spurs are the NBA Champions 2012-2013…..

  21. Where’s Kobe? Garnett? Carmelo? Stoudemire?

    Curry? Dwight? Nash?

    Where’s Durant? Harden? Westbrook? Derrick Rose?
    I can go on and on.

    But my SPURS are still here … Yyyyiiippppeeeeeee !!!

    2013 NBA Champs = SPURS

    • Kalbo!! says:

      Hahaha! You couldn’t have said that any better… I respect Phil… But I don’t believe he’s a better coach than the rest for he only is lucky to have super star teams… Strictly my opinion… Fact based though, left only with Kobe, they never made it to the playoffs and didn’t even reached .500 mark…

    • n1nja says:

      11>4

  22. not a kobe fan either says:

    huh? grit n grind? who the hell came up with those words?

    go spurs go!

  23. TO THE FINALS says:

    I hope coach Pop will let t-mac to play more minutes in game 4 .

    TO THE FINALS

  24. Maria suarez says:

    The Spurs Trio are just the greatest! They are held in the hearts of all the people in San Antonio! One look at our city’s population and anyone can see how much they are loved and admired! Some fly flags with the Spurs logo, others wear their favorite Spurs Shirts! It’s been said even crime goes down game day! Wow! That is an incredible detail of how important they are. Amazing is what they arête all of us! Go Spurs Go!

  25. klipster says:

    that 4 days rest between game 2 and 3 really help the san antonio to reclaim much more energy to equal the energy of memphis. games 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 have only 1 days rest. i am a memphis fan and i believe that san antonio will empty their fuel.

    • Andrew says:

      The same thing was said when we played the warriors. The spurs too old, Tim Duncan is too old, but yet we beat them. The warriors were faster, more energectic, and had better shooters all around. They actually helped us with there up tempo to get ready for memphis, you guys. Did you actually see how tired your memphis grizzlies looked. They were not ready for us. You guys beat two teams with big time superstars who force situations. We play team ball, and you can see it. You might not like the spurs, but they play damn good bb as a team. I respect the grizzlies, but I’m sorry, it’s not your year. Spurs will win this series. Tomorrow, or here at home.

      • Kalbo!! says:

        Totally agree… Please don’t waste your time on such morons so much blinded by their biased fanaticism…

  26. dew says:

    In Pop we trust!! Go Spurs Go!! #drive4five

  27. latigo rapper says:

    yeah! in pop we trust!

  28. ism says:

    1999-today:
    #1 Spurs
    #2 Lakers
    #3 Heat
    #4 Celtics
    #5 Mavs

  29. Sunny says:

    The things to admire about Spurs is the loyalty of the stars and also the scouting. There are always excellent role players on the team and now they are grooming Kahwi Leonard to be the next star on the time.

  30. Aupy says:

    Spurs would have to be one of the best run franchises in sports history. The way they can solidly compete year after year is amazing. Hope that they dominate the rest of the series and then make a good run in the finals.

  31. DriveFerFive says:

    what other coach in the NBA would bench his starters in the 1st qtr for lack of production in a conference finals game or even a regular season game???…… yep, that’s right….none!!!…… Team Is Everything in Santone and if you don’t agree, you’re gone…. just ask Stephen Jackson bout that.

  32. Ren says:

    Spurs is one of the very least teams that stick to what they believe. Other teams once they have couple of bad seasons, they would change/trade/ and lose faith. As long as your system is right, get the right coach, and everyone knows their role, then playing cohesively is a lot more crucial than getting those super stars that demand big pay but do not perform. Don’t get me wrong, TD, Manu, and Parker are super stars.

    Look at Lakers, I think they got the wrong coach, and they don’t have a system to base on. They have all that they need at that time with Kobe, Pau, and Lamar. Sometimes it takes time to build synergy in a team.

    Now I think with Kobe, Dwight, Pau, what more can you ask for. You just need a good system / good coaching / and allow them to play. After watching few games of the Lakers, I think there is something wrong with the overall cohesiveness. No trades can help that. Lakers have all the pieces, but I think they need couple seasons to really learn how to play together. To me, I think they need a different coach, even bringingin someone with no NBA rings. Commit , commit, commit to a system and your identity.

    Side notes: Dwight need to treasure his youth now while it’s still there. In order, for him to get better offensively, he must first have the defensive mind of a player like Mutumbo, and learn movement w/o the ball.

    Too much tips for the Lakers. Afterall, Spurs is my team.

    • Dillon says:

      Ginobli isnt a superstar

      • cristian says:

        Ginobili is a Hall Of Famer

      • Kamote says:

        Ginobli led the Argentinian team that handed the Dream Team its first loss… has won championships in the NBA, Olympics and World Basketball league while leading these teams and playing at a high-level. He only became the Spurs’ 6th man because he trusts the team’s system and Pop.

        If a superstar to you means they have to be Divas, then i guess it would be OK if he isn’t one of them.

  33. Alo210 says:

    These guys have been battling for years with all sorts of different line ups. Pop has really tried his best to surround this core of Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili with all sorts of players. Although some have not worked out so well (R. Jefferson), its nice to see how he’s really been able to use Leonard and Green to the best of their ability. Looking for them to go all the way, but credit to pop and his staff on how they manage this team. The drive for 5 is still alive!!!! Go Spurs Go!!!!

  34. fantasticdan says:

    spurs are the gorgon!

  35. Aditya says:

    lot of respect for a team with high standards and common sense. No tantrums or drama. Consistently doing this for 17 years!! Go Spurs! Win or lose, you set a great example and are role models for the younger generation.

  36. Patty says:

    Donot like San Antonio.

    I am not surprise that David Stern did not suspend Wade. Wade is a dirty player. There will be nothing that the NBA can do to stop the Indiana Pacers from winning the series.

  37. cyberninja says:

    love the spurs so much … such a great team, great individuals, great organization

  38. mattchew says:

    love the spurs team