PRO BASKETBALL

Popovich big on final results, not fancy records

2011-02-18T00:00:00Z 2011-02-19T01:30:30Z Popovich big on final results, not fancy recordsBy Al Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
February 18, 2011 12:00 am  • 

CHICAGO | You won't find Gregg Popovich puffing on a fat cigar, doing national commercials, appearing on late night TV or gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated.

His San Antonio Spurs aren't there yet.

The Spurs visited Chicago Thursday night with the NBA's best record at 46-9. They were 34-3 when scoring 100 or more points, and 38-0 when outshooting opponents from the field.

But these were the Bulls, always in the attack mode, who were 37-16 and winners in 14 of the previous 15 games.

"It's the confluence of a lot of circumstances that have worked out for us beginning with Manu (Ginobili) and Tony (Parker) being totally healed and healthy and fresh for the first time in five or six or seven or eight years," Popovich said prior to the tip-off.

"Richard Jefferson has given us this year what we were looking for last year and didn't get and our bench is better than it's been in two or three years, plus better equipped to run."

Pop's Spurs have also been the healthiest of any team in the league, with the 1966 Merrillville grad quick to add: "Had it not been for Dirk Nowitzki's injury, I think Dallas' record would be the same as ours."

Chicago was the last stop on the Spurs' "Rodeo Trip" which consisted of nine games in 18 days covering 8,230 miles. They had won six of their previous eight before encountering the Bulls.

From here, Popovich would head to Los Angeles, where he's coaching the Western Conference All-Stars against the East.

Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau earlier in the evening had called Popovich "The New Jerry Sloan" based on longevity and a system that consistently wins.

"I would never put myself in Jerry Sloan's category," the humble Popovich said. "He's the guy I used to come home on leave (from the Air Force Academy) and eat fried mushrooms and drink Strohs to while I watched him beat the (bleep) out of people on TV.

"He's more an idol to me than anything else. But I am old like him. I'll admit that."

The Spurs came in as the NBA's top road team at 21-7 but Popovich waves off such records because they carry few guarantees.

"We've won before with the best record and we've lost (in the postseason) with the best record so experiences show me that the best team wins," Popovich said. "After a seven-game series, the best team is gonna be the last team standing.

"Given the choice, of course you're gonna take home-court advantage. If it's even in the standings by the time March and April come around, you won't see me playing (Tim) Duncan 40 minutes to try to keep the lead." 

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