SAN ANTONIO — Not everything interesting that players and coaches say from practice can make it into a full-blown story. But sometimes, the answer to a single question is deserving of being mentioned all by itself.
Especially when Gregg Popovich is the one giving the response.
There were plenty of questions about Tony Parker’s status for Game 4, after an MRI revealed that he suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain and was officially being listed as day-to-day.
A reporter wondered aloud to Popovich whether or not he might just “mail in” Game 4 in order to give Parker some extra rest to get right for the remainder of the series, and it went over about as well as you might have imagined.
“I’ve just got to tell you, that phrase ‘mail in Game 4 …’ Popovich began, clearly agitated by the proposition. “It confuses my whole brain. I don’t think I can think past that comment. I would like to help you, but I don’t know how to help you. You can come back to our coach’s office and hit us up. We’ll be talking about all these sorts of things. Any ideas are welcome. I have no idea until I know how healthy he is tomorrow.”
Popovich can be famously difficult if a question isn’t posed to him in precisely the right way, and this one wasn’t that outrageous on the surface. San Antonio played at different times over the course of the season without some if its key players, and managed to win a very high percentage of those games no matter who was on the floor.
“We played all season long with minus a couple of guys in different cases for whatever amount,” Tim Duncan said on Wednesday. “I was gone for ten games, Tony was gone for a little while, Manu was gone for a little while. We made adjustments. We played without individuals. On this stage at this time, [if Parker is unable to play] it would be obviously a huge loss for us.”
So again, it wasn’t that crazy of a question to ask. But Popovich gave us yet another reminder that how you approach him with such things is as important as anything in determining the level of bite you get when receiving his response.
The Wizards – one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams this season – showed why it’s so difficult to believe in them.
They built a 10-point lead over the Knicks with 1:51 left and steadily blew it. New York got within one and trailed by three with 4.3 seconds left.
And Washington went to sleep.
The Wizards – four of whom hung out near the halfcourt line – allowed the Knicks to push the ball and find a wide-open Langston Galloway behind the 3-point arc. Galloway is one of New York’s best 3-point shooters, and he makes 47% of his wide open 3s, per NBA.com
This is horrific focus by Washington.
But if there’s a team less inspiring than the Wizards, it’s the Kurt Rambis-coached Knicks, and Galloway missed to give his new coach a loss in his first game as New York’s head coach.
Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Watch out for the Utah Jazz
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1) Gordon Hayward game winner makes it seven in a row for Utah. This team is hitting it’s stride again. The reason Utah was everyone’s favorite pick to leap up into the Western Conference playoffs this season was they were one of the best teams in the NBA after the All-Star break last season — they went 19-10, played lock-down defense allowing just 89 points a game, and got just enough offense to win.
The Jazz are hitting that stride earlier this season. After a dramatic win over the Mavericks on Tuesday, the Jazz have won seven in a row and moved past Houston into the seven seed in the West. Utah is hitting its stride and is not only going to make the playoffs but also be a tough out in them. They are playing great defense again, allowing 87.3 points per game during the win streak (95.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), plus are getting offense when they need it. Like during the dramatic end of the win over Dallas on the road Tuesday. First Rodney Hood hit a three to force overtime:
Then Gordon Hayward hit the step-back game winner.
2) Kurt Rambis drops first game as Knicks coach. Meet the new Knicks: They got off to a terrible start, had no offensive flow, were constantly putting up contested shots late in the shot clock, and didn’t slow the other team down in transition. And they lost (111-108 to Washington). If that sounds a lot like the old Derek Fisher Knicks, well, what did you expect? Kurt Rambis — whatever you think of him as a coach — was not going to be able to make many changes on the fly, and while Carmelo Anthony dropped 33, the reasons this team has struggled of late have not gone away. This roster is not as good as Phil Jackson apparently thinks it is, and people running the show at Madison Square Garden may have been blinded by a better than expected start. This is not a good team, if anything the emergence of Kristaps Porzingis has them playing above expectations. There are some pieces to build on for the future, but there is still a lot of building to do. This coaching change doesn’t change much of anything in the short term.
3) Setback Tuesday: Bulls’ Jimmy Butler out 3-4 weeks with knee strain; Grizzlies Marc Gasol out indefinitely with a broken foot; Pelicans Tyreke Evans to miss rest of season after knee surgery. The basketball gods were handing out injuries Tuesday like Oprah handed out cars.
The Bulls will be without All-Star guard Jimmy Butler for a month due to the knee strain he suffered a couple of games back. The Bulls are already 5-12 in their last 17 and struggling on defense; this is another big step back along those lines. Chicago is just 1.5 games from falling out of the playoffs, and that is suddenly a concern. The Bulls’ Pau Gasol will replace Butler in the All-Star Game (which means the Bulls keep a representative, and Gasol is there for the Kobe sendoff game, which is nice).
Marc Gasol is the hub of what Memphis likes to do on both ends, but he has a broken foot and will be out indefinitely. Gasol’s game has taken a step back this season, but the team is still 3.7 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, and the Grizzlies don’t have anyone who can replace what he does at both ends. The Grizzlies have a 4.5 game cushion from falling out of the playoffs, but wins are going to be much tougher to come by now.
Just one second left, so it’s going to overtime, right? Wrong. Avery Bradley with the stupid foul and the Bucks get the win.
5) Miami’s Hassan Whiteside was ejected for elbowing Spurs Boban Marjanovic in the face. It was a made free throw in the fourth quarter of a double-digit game — there wasn’t anything to be battling over. But Marjanovic was working to get his big body in a rebounding position, Whiteside was trying to fight him off and got his elbows up. It was the move of an immature player, which Whiteside can still be at times. Elbow a guy in the face and you’re gone.
Stephen Curry starts ridiculous Warriors fast break (VIDEO)
Golden State is such a thing of beauty to watch in transition.
This play starts when Stephen Curry slides down to help on post defense on Clint Capela, steals the ball, saves it to a teammate and then gets it back when they start the break. James Harden tries to slow Curry down, cutting him off in the backcourt, Curry just whips a 20-foot behind-the-back pass to Andre Iguodala, who lobs it to Leandro Barbosa for the finish.
Houston fought back from 16 down early to make it interesting for a while, but Golden State pulled away late for the 123-110 win. Curry finished with 35 on the night.