Ettore Messina had a winning debut Wednesday against the Pacers and will get to be in charge again Friday against the Kings as Gregg Popovich continues to recover from a minor medical procedure. Again, he'll be catching a big break on the injury front because, like Indiana, the Kings will be shorthanded tonight. Sacramento's best player, DeMarcus Cousins, is sidelined by a virus. Their second and third best guys, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison, will be game-time decisions. The Spurs last loss came against the Kings for their only blemish in their last nine games.
The important news, of course, is that Pop is getting better and that there's nothing serious with his condition. In fact, he was at the practice facility this morning. "He came by, talked to the team briefly and then went home to rest," Messina explained, adding "But it was a good thing to see him, to see that he's doing well, so I think everything is progressing the right way."
Messina shared that Popovich sat in on the coaches' meeting prior to his address to the players and that the staff went over the Pacers game as well as the scouting report on the Kings. All well and normal on that front, and it doesn't sound like Pop will be sidelined too much longer.
The major takeaway I came away with in these limited interactions with Messina, is that it's very easy to see why PATFO made the move to sign him over the summer. Not only is Messina especially close to Manu Ginobili, the player he coached more than a dozen years ago in Kinder Bologna, but he's the kind of warm, caring, and amicable person that fits quickly into whatever new environment he finds himself. We've all seen numerous times in games during time outs Messina huddling one-on-one with Tim Duncan as the two get to know each other and pick each other's brains and Duncan, who's famous for being distant at first with new people, already seems to get on well with Messina.
What's readily noticeable about Messina is that he's got that quick dry wit that's mandatory in the Spurs culture. If you can't make others laugh --and laugh at yourself-- then you don't belong in San Antonio. Messina's coaching resume speaks for itself and obviously his knowledge of the X's and O's is the most important thing, but he's a man who exudes confidence, who's very comfortable in his own skin and can make a roomful of grouchy reporters laugh in his fifth or sixth language with hardly any effort.
When asked if he'd be using the same starting lineup this game as the last one, he replied, without missing a beat, "Yeah, you like it?" and followed it up with, "I'm a soldier, I just do what they tell me do to. There's no creativity."
Later on, someone inquired if Pop graded his coaching performance against the Pacers.
"Family business," Messina said with a laugh. "For sure, that's family business."
He waited a couple of moments and offered a question of his own.
"Do you think if I didn't I'd still be here?"
Already it feels like Messina's been a Spur forever.
Messina announced that Cory Joseph, who's missed the last two games with a left ankle sprain, should play a bit tonight. "The doctors and coaches and strength coaches and everybody else, they worked him out and they said he might give us 10 minutes tonight," he said. "He wants to play. He really wants to play, so that's the most important thing. When you have a player that has a little injury, the fact that he wants to play is pretty big."
Messina also revealed that Tiago Splitter is doing more and more individual work on the practice court but that there's still no timetable for his return from his calf injury.