Gregg Popovich has the Spurs on the verge of another playoff appearance in a season that could have been a disaster, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Early-season injuries forced Popovich to use a point guard committee until Derrick White was healthy, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans and Jakob Poeltl all had to step into important roles and the retirement of Manu Ginobili and the departure of Tony Parker cut the last ties to the Spurs’ glory days. Still, with a 43-31 record, the franchise is on the verge of its 22nd straight trip to the playoffs.
“For guys that have been elsewhere, they come in and they can sense it’s a different environment,” Patty Mills said. “They can notice the difference. It takes some time for players to adjust to how different it is. People have always said you needed to be a certain type of person to be in this environment and to be coached by Pop, and it’s true. The way he coaches his players is a certain way. You’ve seen the way he’s coached Tim (Duncan) and Manu. You see that interaction between coach and player, and everyone else falls in line after that. You know if he yells at you, you can’t say anything back. It’s those little things you have to get guys to understand.”
There’s more from the Southwest Division:
- Popovich would like to make Poeltl the Spurs‘ starting center for the rest of the season, but matchups may keep that from happening, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. With so many teams playing non-traditional lineups, it’s not always wise to put two big men on the floor. “We like to play big because we do a pretty good job of locking down the paint with myself and (LaMarcus Aldridge) on the court,” Poeltl said. “We’ve got to find the right matchups and the right situations where we can do that.”
- Interim GM Danny Ferry will be among the candidates as the Pelicans conduct their GM search, according to Fletcher Mackel of WDSU in New Orleans (Twitter link). Owner Gayle Benson said Monday that the franchise will consider five or six candidates to become the replacement for Dell Demps, who was fired in February. Based on what he has heard, Mackel believes that Ferry will be on that list, along with former Cavaliers GM David Griffin, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon and Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.
- As the NBA marks its 13th annual Latin celebration, Rosas talks with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about the need to get more Latin Americans involved in management.
- Spanish guard Sergio Llull, whose rights have been held by the Rockets since 2009, hasn’t ruled out coming to the NBA someday, his agent, Ernest Berenguer, says in an interview with NBA Spain (translated by Sportando). Llull will be 34 when his contract with Real Madrid expires in 2021.