Pop Plans to Play Hooky in Phoenix
Gregg Popovich doesn’t care what you think. The coach of the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs has forged a path of almost unparalleled playoff success by building a singular basketball compound in central Texas, immune to the ways of other teams, unfazed by outside opinion. Popovich’s culture involves a revolving door of selfless, international players and guys “who have gotten over themselves.” It also features an incredibly loose attendance policy.
Fined $250,000 by the league in 2012 for resting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green for a nationally televised game, Popovich is now upping the ante. Not only are five Spurs players skipping Thursday’s trip to Phoenix for a preseason game against the Suns — Duncan, Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills — but Popovich himself is staying home, as reported by Dan McCarney of My San Antonio.
Resting players, of course, is not exactly unusual in the preseason. But Popovich is being characteristically brazen here. The coach always makes the trip. Popovich, a three-time Coach of the Year, is not deterred by the NBA’s policies and business interests, however. The long, grinding calendar would hurt his veteran team’s title chances if he didn’t let them pass on so much of it. So he doesn’t hesitate to glaze over many a date, even if they’re the ones the association has highlighted — customs be damned. His Spurs don’t need the extra reps like they need a little more R and R.
Maybe the league will fine Popovich for his Bueller-esque behavior yet again; maybe not. Either way, it’s clear that he’s the only coach around with the pedigree and attitude to pull a move like this and look smart (not lazy) doing it. And while some may claim arrogance or insolence over this sort of individualism, that’s fine by Pop. He can’t hear your critique over the jingle of his five championship rings.
— John Wilmes