A game against the Clippers brought out some star-studded reporters including ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelbourne, and it was a pleasure to watch her in action. She caught Pop in a talkative mood and in all the Spurs coach chatted for 11 minutes before the game, about a variety of topics, from Kawhi Leonard's health (not good), to the evolution of Tony Parker's jumper to how he coaches Tim Duncan. I'm posting the whole transcript below. The one piece of positive news is that Parker, who's missed the past five games and eight of nine with a mild strain of his left hamstring will play tonight against Chris Paul and the Clippers after all. With the Spurs in the midst of of a four game losing streak, they sure could use him.
On change in Tony Parker's status...
He's going to start, he's going to play some minutes. I don't know how many.
On Doc Rivers' assertion that Pop has an underrated since of humor.
Doc's correct (total deadpan).
What's the team's motivation with no Game 6 loss to fuel them?
The same. I'm not that clever. Every year I just do the same thing.
But how do you do it without having that "hurt" there?
You just said that because you assume that's how you should feel.
But you've said that before, that you watched video of Games 6 and 7 of the Finals last year...
Well we do that every year, whether we win the championship or we don't or lose in the first round or win the whole thing. The first thing we do in training camp is watch film of the team that knocked us out and go through it frame-by-frame, and we start the season from there. We did the same thing this year, only we didn't watch Miami, we watched OK City, we watched the Clippers, Dallas, we watched Houston, those teams. Since we won it all, we went to the teams that we thought would be the best in the west and start planning them that way.
Do you have to find a new way to motivate them?
No, I don't worry about that. They're grown, that's their problem. They've got kids, they've got wives, they've got girlfriends, they bank, they pay bills, they do things. I don't waste time motivating them.
How hard has it been to build any chemistry this year with all the injuries?
We haven't had any chemistry. We've had different injuries consistently. Every two games different people playing, it's pretty hard to get a rhythm going, so we haven't really been together as a team yet. We're hanging in there, we're not great. We're just hanging on really is what we're doing. We've lost some games that we could've won but the injuries and the schedule have made us pay a price thus far, and that's just the way it is, you just keep on motoring. Hopefully we'll be getting guys back. We're getting Tony for some minutes tonight, Tiago can play a little bit more, you know we'll get Mills back at some point, I don't know about Kawhi, that one's very problematic, but you need your horses.
Leonard had said on Friday he expects to be back pretty soon...
I don't think that's accurate.
Are we talking weeks maybe?
I don't know.
It sounds bad, right? A ligament issue?
He got another injection today -yesterday?-and one of the doctors said he's been doing hands for 40 years and this is the first time he's ever seen this injury. It's a little bit unique.
Have you ever seen the Western Conference this hard?
It's been tough for a long time, but probably this is the toughest it's ever been, but it's been difficult for a decade I think. No questions from the back? (To Clippers broadcaster Mike Smith) You have a lot of makeup on. Geez oh whiz. Whether he's on (TV) or not, right?
What does he think of Blake Griffin's jump shot?
Well first I have to correct you of your notion that I watched film because I did not. I don't watch much film of other teams at this point of the year, if any. Because last time I checked we're not undefeated, so I have plenty to watch with my own team and try to correct things without worrying about other teams. Because, we're all pretty similar. It's about execution. It's about competitiveness. There are no magic plays or magic defenses that I've seen recently, or in the last couple of decades and we're all pretty darn similar, but it's about the people we have and how they compete and how they execute and that's where I put my time. As far as Blake and his jumper are concerned, I have my own problems. I don't know if it's been great for him, not great for him, I don't know.
With all the lineup shuffling and extra minutes you've had to play some guys has anyone surprised you?
No they've just shown me that they're as bad or worse defenders as I thought, only they get to it for more minutes now because the other guys are gone.
One reporter to another: I told you he's funny.
I don't know where you're coming from, you must've been living in a phone booth somewhere, if you didn't know I was funny. Geez oh whiz.
Have you or your staff ever approached Duncan about adding something to his game?
When he came in he was pretty much a finished product. He was there (Wake Forest) for four years and they did a great job with him. His footwork on the block when his back was to the basket... everybody knows he could go out on the floor and shoot the bank shot, that kind of thing. I think if anything over the years we've tried to convince him to be more aggressive with the jump shot, off the elbows on the court because he's not going to get all the same things done on the block anymore that he used to. He has nights where he's ridiculous, I mean the triple-overtime against Portland I thought I was watching a 27-year-old out there, he was unbelievable, but he's reticent to it. If he misses a couple of shots he thinks he's hurting his team, so I have to talk to him about being aggressive with the jumper, I don't care if it goes in or not just keep throwing them up there blah blah blah because that's what's open. You know, when you have a point guard and they're going under all the time, Tony would never shoot the ball his first couple of years because he wasn't confident, and that's not good because that's the shot we're going to get. Well now he can shoot that shot. Timmy's the same way. He's got to get off that somewhere else, so we talked about shooting that jumper, but other than that he takes care of himself. In the summertime we don't give him programs to do or anything like that, he just does his boxing, and his swimming and all the other stuff and he keeps his body the way you see it. And if you watch him walk, you see him limping. His leg doesn't extend, it doesn't straighten, so you ask yourself, ‘How does this guy play?' And I still ask myself. I'm serious. Just go watch him walk. It's a weird thing. So I'm amazed by what he gets done.
Did you always leave him alone in the years he wasn't doing well on the free throw line?
We did a little bit of everything in the beginning, like sit down, look at the film, ‘You didn't use your legs,' or you did this, you did that, blah blah blah and I learned real quickly that he didn't want to hear from me that much. He's a self-starter. He's a problem-solver. He was a psychology major. He likes to figure things out on his own. The best coaching I can do with Timmy is to leave him alone and I'll insert something here or there, usually in a funny or wiseass sort of way, he accepts it better that way.
Is it possible he's been a better rebounder and shot blocker in the second half of his career?
He just does it differently. He used to be more athletic. Now he just does his work early, all the time. He puts his body where it needs to be because he can't make up with it for athleticism. He's not in the right place. So his timing is even better than it used to be, his positioning.
Has Tony changed something with his three point shot?
You know Chip Engalland has done a great job with him. He just shoots many and works at it. It's as simple as that. Chip changed his shot a little bit a long time ago, because everybody was going under on him, but he's pretty confident with his shot, so there hasn't been much change there the last few years but the amount of time put in and me giving him the green light and saying ‘We want you to shoot it,' because in the past I basically didn't want him to shoot it, I mean why would we do that? So, he's put in the work and shown he can do it, so the combination of the green light and his work on it I think has helped, under Chip's tutelage.