The Victor Wembanyama-less San Antonio Spurs lost 132-119 to the Milwaukee Bucks last night in a respectable effort by the guys on the court. Let's be real. No Spurs fan expected to win that game. ESPN's predictor only gave the Silver and Black less than a 7% chance to pull off the upset. What fans needed to see were execution improvements, and we saw that in various forms. Despite those improvements, Coach Popovich made some comments after the game sure to aggravate viewers.
Popovich on Sandro Mamukelashvili "He is always in my mind (like): Am I missing something here? Should I be playing this guy more?" - San Antonio Express News
What do you mean by "should you be playing him more?" Do you mean the athletic 6'10" forward who just dropped 34 points and 22 rebounds in an Austin Spurs G League game, showcasing he is too good to be there? That guy? The one who can space the floor, drive, handle the ball, make creative passes, and has enough lateral quickness to competently switch on defense? That guy?
Those comments alone were enough to tilt the fan base, but his elaboration was like pouring accelerant on a blazing flame. He expanded, "I don't think he's a five, but I wonder sometimes: can he guard a three, or is he big enough to be at the four, or do we just play perimeter players and don't call him anything?"
The problem with Popovich's questions is that he should already have the answers
These comments insinuate that Pop does not understand the state of the NBA today in the era of positionless basketball. But we know that is not the case. His experiment with Jeremy Sochan was a case of instituting positionless basketball on this team, and the Spurs have played with Boris Diaw as the point-center and Kawhi Leonard as the power forward. Don't pour water on San Antonio's faithful and tell them it is raining. He should know exactly what to do with unique players. Play them.
The most recent evidence of the most tenured coach in the league's understanding of positionless basketball is his recent move with the starting lineup. When he moved Zach Collins to the bench, Wemby moved to the five, but Pop revealed he still does not consider him a center.
At the end of the day, he has moved Sochan around for experimentation purposes, he has run multiple lineups with no point guard on the floor, and he admitted to Wemby's lack of position distinction based on play style. If he has an understanding of these things, he should understand to just put Mamu on the floor and stop worrying about labeling him. It is talking out of both sides of your mouth, and Coach Pop has never been taken for a ventriloquist.