“He's playing big-time basketball. He's doing some wonderful things,” Popovich said. “He's also playing defense. He's not just scoring. So I think he's a wonderful young player and he's gained the confidence that one needs to step up to that next level where he expects to play a certain way night after night after night after night. That's what a lot of young good players never get. And it seems that he has figured that out. I think his time this summer with the U.S. team really helped him do that.”
POPOVICH PRAISES BROOKS
Prior to tip-off, Popovich retuned pleasantries about Scott Brooks moments after the Thunder's coach had just gushed over Popovich and the Spurs.
“He just continued from what he did last year,” Popovich said of Brooks. “He did a fantastic job last year. The guys respect him. He's consistent. He is who he is. He believes in what he's doing. He teaches it well. He's just continued that. He's got good discipline about what he does with the program and it's obvious in the way they play night after night.”
WHAT DEMISE OF DUNCAN?
Over the past few years, some fans and media members have consistently tried to write off Spurs forward Tim Duncan as washed up. And at 34 and the owner of career-worst averages of 13.3 points and 9.4 rebounds, it's become easy for critics to crop back up.
Brooks, however, isn't buying into the theory that we're seeing the demise of Duncan.
“They use him when they need him,” Brooks said. “He's still one of the best bigs. He's still an All-Star. He's a great teammate. He could complain and (say), ‘Give me more touches.' Because 13 points, he could put that up in a half — still. But they figure out ways to win, and when they need him to join in on the party, they give it to him.