Basketball

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John Watkins, File | The Times

CHICAGO — The Gregg Popovich Show came to the United Center Saturday night as a prelude to the Spurs-Bulls matchup.

The Spurs won 87-77.

He talked about injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, the emergence of his young stars on the roster and the preseason signing of veteran Rudy Gay during a pre-game chat with media.

Ho-hum. I couldn't care less.

I'm sure Region fans wonder how big a distraction it is for the 1966 Merrillville grad to be the NBA's lightning rod on social issues with his constant criticism of the Oval Office.

"It is what it is. It's not a distraction for me," Pop said. "The team seems fine."

Through the 2016-17 season, the Spurs have compiled the best winning percentage and most wins over any 20-year stretch in NBA history.

They have registered 20 straight seasons with a winning percentage of over 60 percent.

There's no how-to book on the subject, just an abundance of insight, commitment and some luck.

"You hope that you've done your homework," Pop said. "You hope you've done enough research to know what kind of character the guys have, how they're going to adjust to team play, do they have the mental ability to grow, to learn and to become better players?

"Physicality is between the ears and that's a function of character."

The Spurs had seven new faces on their 2016-17 roster and finished 61-21, second-best record behind Golden State.

This season, there are seven new faces again.

There were some lighter moments, for sure, like when Pop asked veteran Bulls' writer Sam Smith: "Need some help? Want me to hold your tape-recorder? You've been doing this a long time."

On a serious note, Pop has gone off several times regarding the divisiveness that's shredding our country, so I wondered if sports is more important than ever in bringing us together as a people.

He stepped back, then smiled.

"You're a social scientist tonight. Al, c'mon," Pop chuckled.

"Sports, entertainment, music ... all those sorts of things. It's the commonality that you look for. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a lot of commonality. It's more tribal than common."

That was the Gregg Popovich I was looking for.

"Sports is something where everybody can put things aside and enjoy themselves," Pop said. "You run into somebody at a game and maybe you can start talking to them about something.

"At least you can enjoy the situation together."

Sports is a never-ending discussion and blending of emotions.

The Bulls' Bobby Portis punches teammate Nikola Mirotic at practice, giving him a concussion and the need for facial surgery.

Portis met with media before Saturday night's game and apologized for his actions, said he's reached out to Mirotic, but hasn't heard back.

Raiders' head case Marshawn Lynch runs on the field during the Chiefs game and grabs, then shakes, an official. He's suspended one game and should've gotten more.

And the Cowboys' Eziekiel Elliott is suspended six games by the NFL for domestic abuse, then wins a temporary restraining order which allows him to play.

How can you not turn to a stranger next to you and share opinions on such nonsense?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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