Gregg Popovich has done this before. More than once. Three times last season he rested his stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all at once.
And while David Stern never got involved until last night, fans at those games were not happy (and there was some grumbling from some quarters of the media).
When Popovich did it in Portland last season, a fan wrote him and complained that he had paid good money to see these stars and he was unhappy. Popovich said he responded to the letter, reports Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
“I got a letter from a gentleman who was disappointed because he came to the game with his cousin, they paid money and they wanted to see so-and-so and so-and-so. I wrote him back and I said, ‘If I was in your position, I would write the same letter. I agree with you totally. You’re right. But my priorities are different than yours.’ In the general sense, frankly, everything doesn’t go our way in life. Everything go your way every day? Sometimes things happen. That’s the way it goes.”
Popovich has one priority — do what is best for the San Antonio Spurs team. His team was on a the final game of a six-game road trip Sunday, was playing the second game of a back-to-back and their fourth game in five days, going up against a Heat team that had the last four days off. That is what you call a schedule-maker’s loss. The Spurs were 5-0 on the road trip so far and Popovich thought his veteran stars looked a little tired so he gave them the night off.
He did what he felt was right for his Spurs — not for the Heat fans, not for TNT (which was to broadcast the game), not for the greater business of the league, but for the Spurs team. That is his lone goal. David Stern, the fans, the media have other priorities. Stern can inject those priorities into Popovich’s decision making, but it’s not a simple question.
And Popovich gets all that. He just had different priorities.
Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.
His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.
George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).
As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.