Bertans speaks on Popovich, differences between Spurs and Wizards

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, talks with Davis Bertans #42 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, talks with Davis Bertans #42 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

After one year away from the San Antonio Spurs, Davis Bertans opened up on some of the differences between them and the Washington Wizards

Throughout the San Antonio Spurs difficult 2019-20 season, we kept Davis Bertans‘s adjustment to the Washington Wizards in our sights. He’d been a valuable shooting threat for the Spurs in his first three seasons in the league but it’s always interesting to see how a player adapts to a new environment.

Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards set Bertans free, giving him the greenest light of his career. He thrived as an off the bench scoring threat, nearly doubling the amount of three’s he took per game from 4.4 in his final season with San Antonio to 8.7 per game this year with Washington. He didn’t sacrifice any accuracy in doing so, still knocking down an impressive 42 percent of his long-range attempts.

When all was said and done Bertans had finished his first season in D.C amongst the top-ten in the league in 3-pointers attempted, made, and 3-point accuracy. A heck of a season for a player who had been well known to San Antonio Spurs fans but not to the NBA fanbase at large. He’s approaching unrestricted free agency this summer and will be in for a heck of a payday.

Now Bertans is opening up about the differences between San Antonio and Washington and how the environment in Washington is a bit more open and free than the systematic approach that the Spurs take. Jeff Garcia with News 4 San Antonio recently noted how Bertans emphasized the ‘democracy’ in the Wizards locker room.

“I think the biggest difference is, probably, there might be a little bit more democracy in the Wizards than in San Antonio. Mostly, what Pop (Popovich) says that goes,” Bertans said. “There’s only been a couple of people, maybe in a long time, that have been able to say something to Pop and him agreeing with them.”

“You have to be 100 percent sure, not even 100, maybe 150 percent sure that you’re right before you actually say something that is opposite of what he is saying.”

While his comments might strike some Spurs fans the wrong way, let’s not rush into over-interpreting what Bertans had to say. Scott Brooks has always been known as a players coach, it’s not surprising that he would let his players have a larger say in how the team plays.

Additionally, he’s only been with Washington for a few years, to varying degrees of success. Encouraging open discussion between players and coaches could just be his way of trying to find success with a team that hasn’t had a lot of it over the past decade.

Compare that to Gregg Popovich who has been the coach of the San Antonio Spurs for what seems like an eternity, has 5 NBA Championships and 3 Coach of the Year titles to his name, and is indisputably recognized as one of the greatest to ever coach the game of basketball.

That isn’t to say that Brooks needs player feedback and input and Pop doesn’t, but one of them has found what works in his system and the other might still be figuring out how best to run his team. It’s hard to fault Pop for wanting a player to be, as Bertans said, ‘150 percent sure’ about what they’re saying before saying it because he’s proven that when the team follows his lead good things tend to happen.

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But, to Bertans’s point, Pop could be better about taking player input. We saw that this year when Dejounte Murray and Derrick White wanted to play more with one another and yet Pop kept White largely stuck in his role as the leader of the second unit. There were also several instances when he snapped back at reporters for suggesting that he alter lineups during the season.

That’s part of what makes critiquing Pop such a tricky prospect. One on hand he’s an all-time great and the San Antonio Spurs as an organization owe a large part of their success to him, but on the other, he can be ornery and stuck in his ways. I can think of very few coaches who could continually start a player with Bryn Forbes‘s defensive issues and take as little flack for it as Pop has.

To his credit, Popovich has been open to changing his coaching philosophy in the past. He’s done it recently when he had to sit down with LaMarcus Aldridge to figure out the best way to coach the big man and could have to do it again if the team continues to struggle like they did this year.

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The great ones are constantly improving and even though there is a high level of respect between Bertans and Popovich, perhaps the San Antonio Spurs head coach will see what the Latvian laser had to say and make more open conversations a point of emphasis in the Spurs locker room next season.