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NBA AM: Was Gregg Popovich In The Wrong?
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On November 30, 2012 @ 9:39 am In All,NBA | No Comments
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has 17 years of head coaching experience, 860 career wins and four championships. He’s a lock for the Hall of Fame and is widely regarded as one of the best head coaches in the history of the game. You would think, at the very least, that would earn him the right to do his job as he sees fit. It has from Spurs ownership, but not from NBA commissioner David Stern.
Going into their fourth game in five nights and their 10th road contest in the last three weeks, Popovich opted to send Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green home for a nationally televised game against the Miami HEAT. Such moves are not out of the ordinary for Popovich at all. His reasoning was simple: His guys were tired and he wanted to rest them before a big Saturday night matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s done this many times in the past, but what made it special this time was the reaction of Stern.
“I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said in an official statement. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
That statement was made shortly before tipoff. What followed was one of the most impressive performances of the season for the Spurs. With just one regular starter in the lineup, Boris Diaw, the Spurs played inspired basketball and actually led with just 43 seconds left. However, a three-point shot from Ray Allen on a broken play with 22 seconds left helped the HEAT retake the lead, which they would not relinquish.
The Spurs had five players in double figures, led by the 20 points of Gary Neal and 18 points and nine rebounds from Tiago Splitter. They stepped up to the challenge and relished the opportunity to show what they could do with half of the regular rotation and all of their star power watching back in San Antonio.
But, that’s not the story. The story is whether or not they should have even been in that position. Duncan and company were healthy enough to play. The fans in Miami paid a lot of money to view what could be a 2013 NBA Finals preview. While they still ended up getting to see a good game, their frustration is warranted.
Is “substantial sanctions” from the league warranted, though?
Stern has never been afraid to be on the wrong side of a slippery slope. If he does indeed sanction the Spurs, it won’t be surprising. But, it also won’t be effective either. Even if he’s technically his boss, Popovich, who refused to respond after the game due to not seeing the statement for himself, is never going to take Stern into consideration when making coaching decisions. Nor should any other coach for that matter. This is an overreach and a power play by Stern and Popovich is not one to back down from what he feels is right.
If Stern comes down heavy on the Spurs for sending their top four scorers home, all Popovich will do next time is keep them on the bench the next time he wants to rest them. But, if he doesn’t want them to play, he’s not going to play them regardless of the stage they’re playing on, how much tickets cost or what Stern threatens him with.
Popovich has one primary concern and that is to win a championship. As his four rings indicate, he knows what it takes to get it done and he is not going to let anyone tell him how to do his job at this point of his career.
Rivers Adjusting To The NBA: New Orleans Hornets guard Austin Rivers has been groomed to play in the NBA basically since birth due to being the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. Now that he’s finally playing in it himself, he’s seeing just how difficult the transition to playing at the game’s highest level is.
“It is a big step,” Rivers said to HOOPSWORLD. “It’s a total change but that’s how it was from high school to college, totally different. From college to NBA is even bigger. I think the biggest thing at this level is you have to continue to stay confident, hungry and continue to work. If things don’t go right, you can’t just point the finger or start worrying about, ‘Oh well I wonder what they’re thinking.’ You just have to keep playing and continue to get better and better and better. I’m not worried about shots because some games it falls and some games it won’t. But I’ll keep getting consistent at that stuff. I worry on things like defense, help side, all those little things that I’m not used to. Those are the big things I’m trying to get better at.
“The main thing is I want to be on a team in a position to win. I think we do have that. Obviously we’re not off to the best start, but it’s a long season. I’m still confident in the team. I know if we do that then things for ourselves will come, All-Star games, rookie games or whatever, all the stuff like that. That stuff will come. I’m not worried about that, if it happens or doesn’t happen it’s whatever really. I just want to go out and have fun, help my team. I know if I do that I’ll enjoy myself.”
At 4-10, Rivers and the New Orleans Hornets are in last place in the Southwest Division. Injuries have been a persistent problem for them, but as far as Rivers as an individual is concerned, he’s just about back to full health.
“Injuries have been huge for us,” Rivers said. “For myself, [Anthony Davis], Eric [Gordon], Jason [Smith] was out a couple of games. He’s back now. We’re really banged up. I’m finally just about 100 percent now, which is nice. I think the biggest thing right now is we just have to continue to battle. We come out and match everyone’s effort and then we kind of let them get these runs and we don’t give them back. I think that’s the thing. We have to be able to take a run, stop it, and make one ourselves. I think that’s the biggest thing. If you ask what the biggest staple of New Orleans basketball, they’ll say defense and right now we’ve let people score too many points. If you look at our past games, we’ve let people score over 100 like the past four or five games in a row. That can’t happen when your staple is defense.”
In reality, the Hornets knew this was going to be a rebuilding year as Davis and Rivers learn the game and grow into major contributors for them. With Gordon out, winning has become even more difficult. However, what’s most important is that the team improves and learns how to play the right way, which Rivers feels is happening.
“Obviously it’s steps,” Rivers said of this team coming together. “I couldn’t even tell you [how close we are]. I hope not too far and I don’t think so cause I do really believe in our players. We’ve had big games this year where we’ve beaten teams like Utah, won against Chicago in Chicago. We’ve beaten good teams and shown we could win. We’ve let a lot slip from us. We’re on a little streak right now in a bad way. All it takes is one win to snap that and we just move forward. I think that’s what it takes.”
Up Close With Jeff Adrien: Forward Jeff Adrien has played overseas and in the NBA since wrapping up a very productive career at UConn back in 2009. He is currently playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA Development League and HOOPSWORLD caught up with him to talk about the differences in the various leagues, his thoughts on teammate and Houston Rockets center Donatas Motiejunas and more in this video interview.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on schedule for today, starting with mine at 11 am est. You can get your questions about the NBA, NCAA and D-League into me here. Next up will be Collective Bargaining Agreement expert Larry Coon at 3 pm EST. You can get your questions into Coon here and make sure to do so quickly because his chats fill up fast.
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