San Antonio Spurs: For the first time, we need to question Gregg Popovich
By Dylan Carter
This season by Gregg Popovich is proving that even the greatest talents are prone to making mistakes and the San Antonio Spurs are suffering for it.
I didn’t want to write this because I know it’ll be controversial, but I think it has to be said. For the first time in my experience watching and covering this team, I’ve found myself questioning the decisions made by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
As a patriarchal leader to the organization and life coach of men, Pop is doing his job better than anybody could ask. Even though his on-court fit has been iffy, Spurs swingman DeMar DeRozan attested to Pop’s care for his players as individuals more than basketball players in an interview with comedian Kevin Hart on his YouTube show.
#ICYMI: All-Star comedian Kevin Hart and #Spurs star DeMar DeRozan discuss life with #Popovich, #Spurs culture and #Kawhi in a recent interview on Hart’s YouTube show ‘Cold As Balls’ #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/VwjEgVVj4X
— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) December 23, 2019
With that in mind, the team’s rotations haven’t been great and his indecisiveness has caused headaches for a group failing to put together an identity. The allocation of playing time set aside for Marco Belinelli has been a disaster considering his complete lack of competence on the defensive end while shooting poorly for the majority of the season.
Those minutes could easily be distributed amongst up-and-comer Lonnie Walker IV and free agency addition DeMarre Carroll, but Pop is stuck in his ways.
For whatever reason, Pop isn’t a fan of Carroll, who the Spurs signed to a three-year deal this offseason as a floor spacer and physical defender. Carroll has only played an average of 10.7 minutes in 12 games and hasn’t been integrated as a consistent role player with the 2019 portion of the NBA calendar coming to a close soon.
Any great coach gets their players acclimated to the system and makes sure to help them build confidence within the system. Popovich hasn’t done that for Carroll and continues to hold Walker on a short leash despite flashes of excellence.
This team clearly isn’t doing great either way and Walker is one of the most exciting members of an otherwise mediocre rotation. Pulling him from games every time he makes mistakes while Belinelli misses just about every defensive read in the sport simply isn’t fair and doesn’t promote the growth of this rotation.
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He also refuses to put sharpshooter Bryn Forbes on the bench, where he belongs at this point. Forcing DeRozan to guard small forwards doesn’t help his reputation as a below-average defender. Placing someone like Carroll, Walker or even veteran Rudy Gay at the starting small forward spot could not only help replace some of that floor spacing, but it would help the team improve defensively as well.
Yes, Forbes and Patty Mills will get burned defensively as a backup combination, but that is way more palatable than letting the starters get run all over and completely dissected by any team with a halfway-decent shooting guard starting.
Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is starting at the five, a spot where we all know him to be uncomfortable, and Pop isn’t doing anything to adjust that. The team’s depth has flaws, but he’s not doing a good job of masking them. The playing time distribution to Jakob Poeltl has been highly disappointing considering he’s been one of the group’s most valuable contributors.
It’s not entirely Pop’s fault that this team is struggling – it’s on the players and front office too – but the seasoned veteran should know better than to remain stubborn and let his team crumble in his hands. Spurs fans deserve a better effort from the greatest coach in NBA history.