Gregg Popovich is this season’s first official All-Star

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One of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s greatest strengths has been his willingness to yell at his star players just as readily as he would the last man on the bench.

Whether or not that works because of who he is or who he coaches—every NBA coach should be so lucky as to work with a Tim Duncan—is a valid talking point, but one that we will get a closer look at because once again Popovich will have a roster full of NBA superstars.

So move the damn ball Kobe Bryant, and set some bleeping screens Kevin Durant, and if it’s not too much trouble, if it doesn’t make you too angry, if you also want to play some defense on the other end, that’d be great.

Yes, Gregg Popovich is your 2011 Western Conference All-Star Coach, clinched in last night’s 113-102 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Sideline reporters beware.

Popovich has never been one to care for the sideshow distractions that come with a prime NBA gig, as more than one reporter could tell you. But as much glitz and glamour as the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles will be, the NBA’s showcase weekend will be better for having him.

After all, so few coaches in any sport could combine the coaching acumen, understated humor, and sense of the moment to keep the weekend long celebration in its proper perspective. Popovich’s presence, in a sense, helps make the weekend a legitimate celebration of basketball rather than a celebration of celebrity.

In previous years this would have been the perfect opportunity to crack a few jokes about keeping the Eastern Conference under 100 points, calling early timeouts, or perhaps even benching Kevin Durant one minute in for a failed defensive rotation.

But this is a different Pop, sort of. And this season has been one of his greatest performances so far, as evident by his multiple coach of the month awards.

This season Popovich has embraced the sort of perimeter-based, let-it-fly-from-three offense that makes the All-Star game so entertaining and imbued it with a fundamental quality that still makes for superior basketball.

No longer the practitioner of two seven-footers and a cloud of dust, Popovich should feel right at home with the numerous options this stacked roster should afford him—somehow I think Popovich critics will be much less irate with the stretch four and small ball when Dirk Nowitki or Kevin Durant are the forwards instead of Matt Bonner or Richard Jefferson.

So congrats Popovich, Tim Duncan is excited for you. As is the rest of the league (except Chris Bosh, he just wants to chill). We are all looking forward to your in-game interview.

  • Judd

    That Duncan interview is hilarious. Timmy is just so happy about this. There is little in this world that amuses me as much as Tim and Pop’s unique senses of humor. Get ready to watch Kobe play 48 minutes while any manu, tim and/ or tony play almost none. Seriously, if any of our big three get picked by the coaches, Pop will limit them to below 15 minutes. This is going to be so much fun.

  • DorieStreet

    Pop will handle it alright. He will be a little more accomodating with the interviewers since this is the league’s showcase event during the season. His player rotations will have everyone in by mid-second qtr, with the perrenial stars leading the way. In the second half, all the young guns/future stars will get the bulk of the time; Pop might even hold Kobe out an extended time and then ask him if he wants to go back in & play with the ‘kids’ in the 4th qtr, if the game is close. On the other side, Doc (Rivers) will give the casual fan/star obsessed viewers want they want –’the Heatles’ on the court at the same time.

  • Greyberger

    …until Doc pulls Wade for Rondo in the final three minutes and tells Rondo to pass it to Lebron every time. No matter what outcome Doc wins.

  • SpurredOn

    I very much hope that the West wins, another notch in the belt that Pop does not keep track of. The humor from current and former players about this earned opportunity for Pop is the best; they know the man and are likely needling him about it on the trip to Utah.

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  • DorieStreet

    @ Greyberger

    I might watch this year—Doc; ex-Spur (his last team he played for-no doubt picked up valuable training for his coaching career); Tim’s last Allstar selection; a last hurrah for Manu (other than a finals MVP); Pop is a last of his kind: dispite AAU ball, you can still do it at the high school level in many states; it is still possible at the 4/5 levels of college-see Division I– Coach K, Izzo. But in the Association, it becomes less & less of a possiblity each year (see Scott Skiles). Bottom line: recuit/draft the best players y0u can get; but if you have that hardline/old school coach- make sure those ‘elite players’ can coexist/excell-under that coach.

  • rob

    “Popovich’s presence, in a sense, helps make the weekend a legitimate celebration of basketball rather than a celebration of celebrity.”

    No truer words i.m.o.

    Will Pop play along? Of course he will. Pop loves to play in situations where the outcome really doesn’t matter.

  • rob

    I should have said “I think Pop loves to play in situations where the outcome really doesn’t matter”.

    I don’t know Pop personally so my original statement may not be correct.

  • mybloodisblahblahblah

    If I remember correctly, the last time Pop coached the West (2005? or ’06?), he benched Timmy and Manu and gave T-Mac and Yao Ming heavy minutes. Of course this was how Pop prepared for a Houston Rockets game, which I don’t have any doubt he’ll do again this time around. Evil genius.

  • miggy

    Here’s a great interview with Pop. This guy got a lot out of Pop. Amazing!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CccDTN6QVRg&feature=player_embedded#!

  • ThatBigGuy

    Dear Stern,

    Thanks for letting Pop be an All-Star coach. He is truly an amazing character and a deserving recipient of this honor.

    Sincerely,
    ThatBigGuy

    P.S. Your media day just got much more interesting.

  • mtk

    yet another reason why gregg popovich is the COY:

    http://vimeo.com/19194956

    was at the game against gsw. check it out.

  • Drom John

    So, Thunder players will get heavy minutes?

  • Bankshot21

    @ThatBigGuy

    You’re thanking David Stern for something he had nothing to do with. Lol. Now when he gives TD Yao’s roster spot then we can thank him. Lol.

  • Bankshot21

    If a link to the Duncan interview mentioned could be posted it would be greatly appreciated.

  • Tyler

    I just wish Shaq was on the East squad so we could take the hack-a-Shaq to a whole new level….

  • spurcase42
  • spurcase42

    Nice thing is that Pop has a built in excuse to play them limited minutes. None of them were voted in as starters so they are not who the fans want to see. And Kobe, Durant, Anthony, and Paul were, so run their legs off.

    Just joking, but I do hope he limits the Spurs players minutes just to avoid injuries.