When it’s a grind-it-out game, the Spurs usually win. They expect to win.
But Monday night the Clippers went into San Antonio, had an off night from their leading scorer (Jamal Crawford), had banged up starters, got into a defensive struggle and won. The Clippers ground down the Spurs, played good defense and made the big shots late. They out-Spurred the Spurs.
“Of all of our games, this is in the soft category,” he said calmly. “We never had five guys that competed hard enough to win the basketball game, the Clippers took it with their aggressiveness and toughness, both mentally and physically. And I thought for a portion of that game we were an embarrassment. So we’ve got to look at that and look at the film and make sure everybody understands that this is a game that has to be played with competitiveness for 48 minutes. And that’s the bottom line.”
Losing to the Clippers is no embarrassment — they are playing as well as anyone in the NBA so far this season. They always had offensive firepower, but now they are defending and that should scare the other top teams in the West.
And Popovich knows what he’s doing here, he’s playing a game. He says this in the media to light a fire under his team when he thinks they are losing focus. The same way Phil Jackson and countless other smart coaches have done.
The Spurs are still 8-3 on the season, they are still executing, they are still near the top of the West. But sometimes they need jolt to keep going, so Popovich went to the media whip. And we’re happy to do our part and help out.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.