Reactions to Team USA‘s poor showing against France keep coming in. While many tiptoed around talking about Gregg Popovich and his coaching, the man in Tokyo took the conversation directly in that direction. On the latest Hoop Collective podcast, Brian Windhorst called in from Japan, and his first question to Mark Spears went straight to Pop.
WINDHORST: Spears, you know a lot of these guys personally; you have a good feel for this team. What do you see when you watch them play?Brian Windhorst and Marc Spears, Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective
SPEARS: They’re letting Pop get in their head too much.
WINDHORST: Thank you.
SPEARS: They just need to play. If they just play, they’re capable of beating everybody by a significant amount. They’re worried too much about how many passes they should make. Worried too much about their shot selection. I heard that Beal…I guess I shouldn’t have said his name…there was some surprise and awe when he got yelled at about shots he took in the first game, something like that. I think it’s to the point now, from what I hear, they realized they have to go play and stop worrying about Xs and Os part that Pop wants.
Yep, that’s one of the more plugged-in reporters in the NBA saying the players figured out they just have to ignore Pop. Spears explained that when Coach K was at the helm, he acted more as a consultant. He was there to give his insight and advice, while Pop wants to have a lot more control over the way the team plays.
SPEARS: It will be interesting to see how they adapt to him and if he adapts at all.Brian Windhorst and Marc Spears, Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective
WINDHORST: Couldnt’ve said it better myself.
SPEARS: Am I right?
The phrasing is very revealing. The players will adapt – the question is will they be able to shift to a San Antonio style of basketball quick enough. But for Pop, the question is will he adapt at all. We already covered the fact players were “pised about running the San Antonio offense.” This confirms the suspicion. What baffles is a fact Kevin Pelton pointed out.
The Spurs don’t play that way anymore. They had the fewest passes in the league this season!! It’s kind of bizarre – you want LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan isolating, but you can’t do that with Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant???Kevin Pelton, Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective
Pop can obviously adapt and evolve as a coach. His first few titles were won with David Robinson and Tim Duncan under the rim, playing their version of Grit & Grind. With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili becoming stars, the Spurs game changed, and it became a more free-flowing style of basketball. Load management isn’t the only thing the Spurs brought into the league – as much as Pop complains about the three-pointer in recent years, his teams started the shift towards it. It culminated in 2014 with The Beautiful Game, basketball nirvana for every fan of the game. This was the year when Tony Parker revealed the Spurs would have a 10 pass play, and Pop would tell them to overpass.
The Beautiful Games takes a lot of time and sacrifice to develop. It’s not something that can happen overnight. That’s why it’s so frustrating that Pop is insisting on bringing elements of it to Team USA. One of his major points when grilling reporters about “not respecting other teams enough” is that, unlike Team USA, other teams have been together for years and had the time to implement a team-oriented system. (Charles Barkley ripped into that concept.) So if your main point is that you didn’t have the luxury of time and consistency, why are you forcing a system that is predicated on time and consistency?
You have Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant on the court. The French decided to play two bigs, two seven-footers on the court for the entire second half. I do not have all the rings that Popovich has; I’m not an Xs and Os guy. BUT JESUS CHRIST, WOULD YOU RUN A PICK AND ROLL WITH DAME LILLARD AND KEVIN DURANT???Brian Windhorst, Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective
Pop knows he’s difficult and demanding. Whenever he’s asked about all the success he’s had as a head coach, the first thing Popovich goes to is the fact Tim Duncan and other stars on the Spurs allowed him to coach the way he coaches. I’m sure every player on that team wants to impress Pop and play the Spurs way. Everything we hear out of Tokyo is that this time Pop should be the one to adapt – start coaching the players the way they want to be coached.