Gregg Popovich Interview
Friday evening the San Antonio Spurs visited New Jersey to battle the Atlantic Division-leading Nets. Here's what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had to say before the game to InsideHoops.com and a few local reporters:
Question: When Manu Ginobili was coming back from his various injuries, like the second one, he was brought back slowly. How did you decide exactly when to move him back above Michael Finley?
Gregg Popovich: I just made the decision based on whether he would be in enough good condition to play 25, 30 minutes per game. When he got to that point, we made the change, because when it's money time, he's going to be the starter. So it make sense to go ahead and get it over with now, and make that change so Michael can get comfortable with his role, also. That's why the second time that Manu got hurt, we actually started Brent Barry, and kept Michael in a substitution role, and he understood, because when Manu comes back, you're going to be the sub anyway. So just get used to it. You'll be better off.
Question: Consistency is obviously key to success.
Gregg Popovich: It's good that I have players that have the character and intelligence to understand what I'm doing. Some guys, ego-wise might not be able to handle that, but I luckly don't have those kinds of problems.
Question: Tony Parker has raised his game to another level this season. What are your thoughts about him?
Gregg Popovich: He's a driven young man. At the age of 23, he's accomplished a lot, coming over here at 19, and nobody really wanting him, and ending up four years later being an all-star. At the point position yet, it's pretty incredible. It's a testament to his fearlessness, his work ethic. He'll pick out a weakness in his game, which was shooting, and he's worked on it every summer. This year, before and after every practice he's out there working on it. He wants to be the best point guard. He makes no bones about it. He wants to be the best point guard in the league. He's getting close. He's not there yet, but he's getting close.
Question: Do you think that not getting picked for the all-star game last season inspired Parker to work even harder?
Gregg Popovich: Yeah. He realized that he didn't deserve it. But at the same time, he thought that that was a good goal to reach, in his maturation as a player. The other thing he's done, he's learning how to be a point guard more and more. He came as a scoring guard, and we're trying to turn him into a point guard. The epitome of that is John Stockton. We don't want him to be John Stockton, because he can't be. He's Tony Parker. And he has some things that John Stockton didn't have. When we can move him closer toward the decision-making and the distribution that Stockton gave then I think we got a hell of a player. And that's what he's done this year. He's really understood that movement towards Stockton. And it's made him a hell of a player.
Question: Playing against the Nets, is it a bigger game than most? Is every game big? Some bigger than others?
Gregg Popovich: In all honesty, I think the best way to answer it is simply, what I feel in my gut. What I think the players feel. When they're playing New Jersey, with the way they're playing, they know they're playing New Jersey. If that makes any sense to you. They know they're playing Dallas, they know they're playing Phoenix, they know they're playing whoever it might be. If it's a team of the same caliber. So that makes it an important game, because it kind of tells you where you're at. Like when we got beat by Detroit this year twice, we were God-awful on the boards. We just got our ass kicked on the boards. It was great for us. It showed us something that we have to strive for by playoff time. When you're playing other teams that you're expected to beat, night in and night out, you know you're better than that team, but it all comes down flat one thing: energy. It comes down to juice. And it's hard to bring it every night when the other team always has it for you. So every time we go out, if that team can beat us, it helps them in some way. They might go on a run for four games. Or, it might save a coach's job. Or it might help a player get a contract. Or it might make a team's confidence rise, because they just did that. It's like hitting a good shot in golf; it makes you want to come back out again. It's that sort of thing. But playing New Jersey, it's not just a matter of juice. It's a matter of playing well, doing the little things, not turning it over, hitting the boards, executing, which makes it a better game.
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