Can the Spurs win 70?
San Antonio walked into Saturday night's game against the Thunder with a league-best 28-4 mark, a 72-win pace which would tie the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the league's all-time best record.
Just don't ask Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about the 70-win plateau.
“No,” Popovich told a member of the visiting media when asked if the milestone has crossed his mind. “Are you still drunk from (New Year's Eve)?
“Now if we lose three in a row you're going to say, ‘Is it time to panic, do you think?' ... Come on.”
Popovich wouldn't even give the matter thought as to whether a 70-win season would be an achievement.
“I wouldn't even give it a moment's thought, now or ever,” Popovich said. “I just think it's a ridiculous thought.”
Moments later, Danny Ferry, the Spurs vice president of basketball operations, emerged from a black door but ran into Popovich's pre-game media session. Before Ferry could excuse himself and duck back in, Popovich stopped his former forward and presented the same question.
“Danny, there was a question about whether we'd win 70 this year,” Popovich said. “Would you like to answer that for me?”
“Well,” Ferry said, “if we don't it's all your fault.”
“If we get any coaching at all probably, right?” Popovich responded. “Thank you, Danny.”
When asked about the development of Russell Westbrook in his third season, Popovich pointed to the Thunder point guard's confidence as the leading factor for this year's improvement.
“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.