Gregg Popovich surely wasn’t in the best mood after the Spurs’ Game 1 loss to the Clippers, and the questions he faced in his postgame press conference certainly didn’t improve his demeanor.
“How much did DeAndre Jordan affect everything you did offensively in the first half tonight?” is a perfectly fine question, but Popovich often does not respond well to indefinite “How much?” questions. This is poor scouting of his subject by the reporter, but this question would have been fine for any other NBA coach.
How intentionally fouling a player allows his team’s defense to set for the ensuing possession is an under-discussed aspect of the strategy, one Popovich frequently employs, especially against Jordan. It’s a good topic to discuss with the Spurs coach, but asking Popovich a yes/no question isn’t going to get anywhere. Neither is a yes/no follow-up.
“Coach, there seemed to be some good ball movement with your team a lot of times. There were some other times where they seemed erratic or out of control. Could you talk about that please?” That reporter already has his story written and wants to plug in a quote in his section about passing. He’s not trying to learn anything. He just wants a quote. If any question deserved Popovich’s scorn, it was this one, and this is the one that caused him to offer a statement.
Surprisingly, his statement — not shown in the above video — was full of helpful information about the game.
Popovich, via ASAP Sports:
The game was‑‑ their defense was better than our offense. That’s the bottom line. Their aggressiveness, their physicality, their athleticism really hurt us offensively. The first half I actually felt decent at halftime. We missed six free throws, gave up 13 points off turnovers and it was a six‑point game. We shot 3 for 14 from three, and I thought, for playing that poorly we were in the game.
Then they had that run, but I thought it was their defense, not just Jordan. He’s part of their defense, but I thought everybody did a great job. Perimeter‑wise they denied in passing lanes, they got up into us. You know, we still had a good number of assists, but their close‑outs on our threes, all that sort of thing, was better than our offense tonight, and that was the bottom line for the game. We obviously missed a lot of free throws but they did, too. Neither team shot well from the line. Does that help?
Popovich took more questions after that, interrupting one and acting incredulous about another. (Both were fine questions.)
This is his shtick, and he clearly enjoys it.
He could have answered the first question about Jordan. He knew what the reporter discussing hack-a-Jordan was getting at, and he could have filled in the gaps. He could have appeased the third reporter with a bland quote. He could have treated the reporters who asked questions after his statement with more respect.
Most coaches, if not every other one, would have. Popovich is different, so we get press conferences like this.