Gregg Popovich was aggressive about using the intentional foul rule to the Spurs’ advantage in their first-round series with the Clippers, especially when DeAndre Jordan was on the floor. But now that the Spurs are done for the summer, Popovich has some longer reflections on whether the ability to purposely send the other team’s worst shooter to the line is good for the game. Spoiler alert: he’s torn about it.
From his season-ending exit interview, via Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:
“There will be a lot of discussion about the fouling, as there should be. But principle-wise, I fee’ really strongly that it’s a tactic that can be used. If someone can’t shoot free throws, that’s their problem. As I’ve said before, if we’re not allowed to do something to take advantage of a team’s weakness, a trade should be made before each game. ‘We won’t foul your guy, but you promise not to block any of our shots.’ Or, ‘We won’t foul your guy, and you allow us to shoot all uncontested shots.’
“So we’d have to make a trade. On an intellectual or principle basis, I think you’re on high ground. Now, visual-wise, it’s awful. It couldn’t be worse. I tend to side on the principle side where it’s basketball, and if we have a guy who can’t shoot and it’s an important part of the game, I should probably get him off the court. We’ll see how it comes out. I’m sure the way it looks will be discussed very seriously by the league.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the rule, but Popovich is a tactician. Even when he hates something, if it’s legal for him to use to his advantage, he will do it. It’s a classic Pop answer and a totally understandable position.