It does not take a genius to figure out that Gregg Popovich does not care what a silly blogger has to say. After all, this is the same guy who regularly blows off sideline interviews on national television. So when I say he's making a mockery of David Stern and the entire NBA, it's certainly not going to change anything about a man who foolishly projects the image that he fears nothing. A coach that uses sarcasm and a wry smile only as a means to mask a staggering stubbornness that has cursed the Spurs on more than one occasion.
In case you don't know what this is all about, let me fill you in. The Spurs beat Golden State in OT late Monday night. They played again Tuesday in Denver, and Pop benched their three best players; Duncan, Ginobili and Parker all sat out. Ginobili's absence was loosely linked to a hip contusion. Pop didn't even use fake decorum for his other two stars, saying:
"Parker makes the All-Star team, becomes hard to deal with, so we're going to sit him and teach him a lesson," Popovich joked. "Duncan says he wants to renegotiate his contract, so I said, 'Sit, I'm not talking to you.' "
Jesus, Pop. Why didn't you just say "Hey Sterny, you can bite me!"
This whole charade looks awful. I'm sure Pop will pull it off, but I doubt David Stern forgets it. The Nuggets definitely won't. Professional athletes look for any reason to play the disrespect card, and Pop basically handed Denver a deck full of them.
Personally, as a Spurs fan, this smacks of the same Popovich arrogance that has gotten the Spurs in trouble before. The same stubbornness that led to Pop playing Van Exel and Horry in the playoffs when it was clear they were DONE (speaking of Horry, his playing time during last year's playoffs looks especially bad when you consider how well Bonner is playing this year). It's possible that tonight's game won't matter. The problem is, there's no way to know that right now.
Pop loves to downplay home court advantage in the playoffs. I know I'm pointing out the obvious, but HCA is hugely important in the playoffs. Even for the Spurs. Over the past six playoffs, the Spurs are 42-13 at home and 26-25 on the road. During the past three championship years they won a total of two series in which they did not have HCA. Who did they beat? Phoenix, both times. Phoenix! A team entirely designed to lose to the Spurs in the playoffs.
Read that again. The Spurs have won three championships with the Big 3, and during those playoff runs they didn't have HCA for only two series... against Phoenix.
In fact, over the past six seasons, the Spurs have lost only two playoff series when they had HCA. One was in 06, to Dallas. A series that featured two OT losses, Nick Van Exel's ridiculous playing time and questionable officiating. The other was in 04, against the Lakers. Yeah, you remember what happened that year.
But it's only one game you say! What's one game? Well, let's take a look.
In 2008, one more win would have meant having home court against New Orleans, a team they barely survived against. One more loss would have put them in a 3-way tie with HOU and PHX (I don't remember which position they would have had in that scenario and don't feel like figuring out.)
In 2007, one game would not have made a difference.
In 2006, one game would not have made a difference.
In 2005, one game would not have made a difference.
In 2004, one more win would have meant jumping Minnesota in the standings, giving them home court throughout the WC playoffs and avoiding the Lakers until the conference finals. One more loss and they wouldn't have had HCA against the Lakers.
In 2003, one more loss would have meant the 3 seed instead of 1 seed.
So, in the past six years, one single game would have made a significant difference in seeding half the time.
Duncan and Parker aren't hurt. Manu has a freaking bruise. The Spurs have FOUR DAYS OFF after tonight's game. The "Rodeo Road Trip" is now, in actuality, eight games spread out over 20 days, with two breaks of four and five days off. This is simply a profoundly conspicuous nose-thumbing at the entire NBA power structure. It's silly and foolish to say the least.
I don't know if one game will make a difference. Neither does Pop. And given that unknown, you better have a really good reason to throw a conference game in the middle of the season. Pop doesn't have one. And if he did? Well, if he wouldn't tell Craig Sager, he certainly wouldn't tell me.