Popovich's postgame threat should light fire under inconsistent player

Coach Pop's postgame interview went from jovial to serious as he leveled a serious threat to complacent players, and one starter should take heed.

Gregg Popovich
Gregg Popovich / Jason Miller/GettyImages

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is known for many things. His love of wine, his outspoken soliloquies on a myriad of controversial topics, and his wide-ranging demeanor in interviews are just a few of them. Fans have watched Coach Pop give jovial interviews, and fans have seen his grouchy or angry interviews.

You get it all with Pop—something he gave the media a taste of after last night's game when asked about the possibility of guys getting comfortable with losing. After being light-hearted through most of the questions, he quickly turned serious.

If they get comfortable with it, I’ll have their (expletive)...If they’re someone who can’t handle that, they’ll be gone." - Coach Pop

It is good to see Pop having fun this year. As trying as the season has to be for the greatest NBA coach of all time, it's important he still finds joy in the process. But that process will not be skipped, and it is awesome that he still maintains his fire for the details of greatness. There is no cheat code for climbing from the bottom, something he continuously preaches.

Devin Vassell is the piece of the puzzle not coming along for the ride

To that effect, Devin Vassell needs to start getting his game into gear right out of the gate. His passive nature continues to hurt the Spurs over long stretches of ball games on an almost nightly basis. He picked it up last night, finishing with 19 points, barely passing his 18-point average. But average effort is exactly what Vassell has given too often, and that needs to change.

Nobody is expecting this kid to put up numbers like Tracy McGrady in his prime, but the effort needs to be above average. Think about your frustrations as observers when you feel like Jeremy Sochan or Keldon Johnson are taking too many shots. Those things are a direct result of Vassell not being demonstrative enough in his leadership and his play.

There is almost a look of determination for some of the other guys when they are searching for their shot, while Devin often gives the ball up way too easily or just stands in the corner watching the action. He acts like he is still a role player whose job it is to occasionally release pressure for everyone else rather than forcing the defensive pressure to burst with relentless aggression.

There are too many games where he believes his jump shot will get him in rhythm to start games, and when it doesn't, he gets passive. At this point in the season, he is simply making a decision to play this way, something Popovich indirectly pointed out last night, telling reporters, "We’re trying to get him to defend himself into the game and not jump-shot himself into the game." It is hard to believe this would be a new message from the coaching staff.

If he can make the decision to be a jump-shooting savant, he can change his mind to be a dynamic driver/defender. The fans have seen this from Vassell but he has to decide he is tired of losing and go into constant attack mode. This is a Devin issue he needs to fix, and if he can't bring that dog mentality out on a more consistent basis, he may not be the number two option for Victor Wembanyama the Spurs are looking for.