HoopsHype Gregg Popovich rumors

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Of all the Gregg Popovich pearls of wisdom throughout the years, the one most salient to his San Antonio Spurs system is unofficially known as "good to great." It's not a complicated concept: great shots are better than good ones, so players must train themselves to make the extra pass without any regard for their own individual pursuits. The Spurs went from good to great yet again on Saturday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, winning Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals 112-107 in overtime against the Oklahoma City Thunder despite not having point guard Tony Parker for the second half. USA Today Sports

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But by the time the Spurs were headed to Houston for the 15th game of a truncated schedule that left no time for early slumps, pressure on Pop wasn't coming solely from the public or the media. The belief among many of Pop's players was that the coach was on the brink of being fired. Or being forced, at the very least, to return to a GM-only role. "It was different from the regular pregame," former Spurs forward Malik Rose said, rewinding back to the game in question against a Rockets team headlined by Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. "David [Robinson] usually didn't say much beyond a prayer in the huddle when we brought it all in, but [before this game] David was saying, 'We've got to get it together, we've got to do this, this is a big game.' "If we lost that game, they were going to fire Pop and bring in Doc ... that was the rumor. I would have to say it was real because of the gravity in the locker room. I'll never forget it." ESPN.com

"I would say he came pretty close [to leaving]," former Spurs forward Rose said. "Pop was pretty much walking on eggshells. He was upset with our agent, Lon Babby, because he thought [Babby] was putting something together to send Tim and Grant to Orlando [together]. I heard he was going, and then it changed at the last minute and he was staying." "My personal opinion," Spurs owner Peter Holt tells ESPN now, "is that Timmy didn't want to leave but certainly felt like he had to test the waters." ESPN.com

Burke talked at length about her relationship with Popovich in the latest Grantland podcast from Zach Lowe, "The Lowe Post," and specifically about that exchange. "Two words. I was devastated. It was brutal. It was absolutely brutal. I was almost in tears. I go back to where I sit, and I'm trying to compose myself, because I thought I asked two pretty good questions and those were the responses I got. Literally, blinking back tears," Burke said. So from that statement, it would be easy to think Burke isn't the biggest Pop fan, but that's far from the case. "As Lisa Salters calls it, we've all been 'Pop'd.' It's never really pleasant, but we all adore him," Burke said. Sporting News

"After the NBA Finals last year, he goes out of his way — he's walking out of American Airlines Arena. He's just lost Game 7 after the torturous way he loses Game 6. We've had all those sideline interviews and I step back to let him go. I step back because I'm trying to be respectful of a man whose just lost what you pour your heart and soul into for eight or nine months of the year. And he drops his bags en route to the bus to take them home to San Antonio and proceeds to grab me by the shoulders and asks me what I'm going to do for the summer. You know he's a huge wine aficionado ... He stopped me and I told him I happened to be going near wine country and was going to spend a few days. He wouldn't let me leave until I promised that I would contact him and he would suggest and help me to get into all these wineries. This is the kind of man he is. My kids get upset with the interviews, and I say please don't judge Pop on those. That's not reflect of who the man is." Sporting News

May 28, 2014 Updates

Dan McCarney: Pop on possible lineup changes: "We’re considering a couple of tweaks, just in the game plan. I don’t know exactly where that will be... but we saw some things that might warrant a little tweak here and there." Twitter @danmccarneysaen

"We didn't play smart on a consistent basis, and all of a sudden we were going to see if Serge could block a shot or something," Popovich said. "I thought about passing a picture out on the bench. They'd know who Serge was. But really unwise basketball all of a sudden. Instead of hitting open people that are out there, we started attacking the rim unwisely, and that turns into blocked shots. We had seven turnovers in the first half but really 14 because of the seven blocks. Those are all like turnovers. "And so that precipitated the 20-0 fast-break points at game time. So you've got to play smarter against such great athletes. They're talented obviously, but the athleticism and the length gives you a small margin of error, and you'd better be smart the way you play, and you can't afford to screw that up as many times as we did. And I think we have to play harder. I think they're playing more physically than we are." USA Today Sports

Popovich can live with losing, but this kind of defeat burrowed within him on Tuesday night. He witnessed a unwise and reckless Spurs team, with something of a death wish. "All of a sudden we were going to see if Serge could block a shot," Popovich said. "I thought about passing a picture out on the bench. They'd know who Serge was. Instead of hitting open people that are out there, we started attacking the rim unwisely and that turns into blocked shots." Yahoo! Sports

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