Gregg Popovich stresses importance of defense, talks Nando De Colo’s role

By Quixem Ramirez

Jan 7, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at the AT

It has been awhile since Spurs fans have been treated with the delightfully terse Gregg Popovich. Notorious for his quirky sense of humor and unapologetic honesty, Popovich is always an entertaining interview.

He was in a particularly good mood for his media day. That is probably because the season has merely began and he has not found a reason to yell at Richard Jefferson. But, alas; happy Pop likely means an insightful interview and that was certainly the case today. (The full video can be found here.)

To summarize: Pop talked about Nando De Colo’s role on the team and whether he will be relied heavily this season. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News tweeted that the Spurs plan on molding De Colo into a backup 2-guard and point guard, primarily because of his 6-foot-5 frame and passing ability that suits both positions. (Apparently De Colo has done pretty well in workouts, too.)

“He has a real good feel for the game. He has a lot to learn but he has a lot of guys ahead of him that he can learn from. He’s a good player. We obviously would not have brought him over. We think that he has developed enough that he should be a member of the team. As time goes on, we are hoping he will continue to improve and be able to help us.”

Popovich also stressed the importance of defense, saying that the Spurs needed to improve consistency.

“It’s all about defense. We have to do our best to become a better defensive team. That’s easy to say but it’s more about a consistency that we didn’t have and it really showed up against Oklahoma City.”

He went on to add that, while they were a mediocre defensive team last season, the Spurs have the potential to become a strong defensive team. This sounds like he is blaming the defensive struggles on personnel, which is somewhat justified, but this crop of players don’t appear to be capable of churning out Chicago Bulls level efforts every night. But pegging this team as mediocre might be selling them short, too; they finished as the 11th most stout defense in terms of defensive efficiency and their defensive rebounding rate does prevent a bunch of easy second chance opportunities.

“We can do things defensively if we commit to that end of the court so we can become a good defensive team. Last year we were a mediocre, middle-of-the-pack defensive team. If we can become a good defensive team, we will be really happy with our season.”

Though he didn’t say anything surprising, Popovich believes San Antonio is behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers. Other interesting tidbits include Pop raving about DeJuan Blair, the unsettled rotation (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are good bets to make the team, though) and the approach he will take to transition the Olympic athletes to the NBA game.