Why is Gregg Popovich a Hall of Fame head coach? You can point to his four rings. You can look at his .682 winning percentage, which ranks third all-time. You can even point to dumb luck. Winning the lottery and drafting Tim Duncan makes life a hell of a lot easier. Sure, it’s a combination of all those things. But we cannot overlook the way coach Pop develops his players, namely Tony Parker.
Popovich was infamously hard on Parker early on. Parker even went so far as admitting that Pop made him cry a couple of times his rookie year. Brett Brown, an assistant on the San Antonio sidelines for 11 seasons, called Popovich “beyond influential,” and was a first-hand witness to Parker’s development from fresh-faced, cocky point guard to NBA champion.
Can Brown get the same kind of improvement out of MCW as Popovich did with Parker? He’s off to an excellent start. Although Popovich is an influence, Brown is his own man, with his own coaching style. In today’s world, coddling your franchise point guard (as opposed to making him cry) is just about a requirement.
Still, at some point during the game tonight, Brown is going to look over at his former boss’ sideline. He’s going to watch the way Coach Pop interacts with his veteran, championship-tested point guard. He’s going to see Popovich call out a play and Parker nod in agreement. Always on the same page. Then Brown is going to look at his own rookie point guard and think, “Will we ever build that kind of battle-tested relationship? Will we ever get to that level together?”
Here are three other things to think about tonight:
More Rings in the House: The last time a former NBA championship team entered the Wells Fargo Center, they came away disappointed. On that night, the Sixers had the element of surprise on their side: Nobody expected them to, you know, actually be pretty good. No such luck for the Sixers this time around. Despite playing (and dismantling) the Knicks last night, Gregg Popovich will have his Spurs team prepared for just about anything Brett Brown throws his way.
Danny Green is Getting Hot: Danny Green went 6 of 9 from long range against the Knicks last night, matching his season total. As much as people love to point to Kawai Leonard as the X-factor for the Spurs, Green might be as crucial to San Antonio’s success. Green makes defenses pay for doubling Duncan in the post, and when he is hitting his shots, he opens up the lanes, allowing Parker to drive to the basket.
Trade Bait? Evan Turner is making an early case for Most Improved Player, averaging 23.4 points a game. This is the best case scenario for Sam Hinkie, who needs Turner to continue playing at a high level in order to up his trade value, which bottomed out last season.