NBA Finals Teleconference - Coach Pop

June 14, 2013

Gregg Popovich
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Q.  Gregg, after turning the ball over only four times in that Game 1 win, your team has turned it over 49 times in the last three for 59 points.  Is that more of what you're not doing in execution or have the Heat changed their defensive principles? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  No, the Heat have the same principles they have had all year long.  They're an aggressive basketball team.  They caused a lot of the turnovers with good aggressive defense, and we've allowed some of it to happen by playing in a crowd and not moving the ball expeditiously.  So it's a little bit of both. 

Q.  I was wondering if we could move away from The Finals for a minute.  A few coaches changing jobs in the last few weeks.  I'm curious of your impression of what you think may be going on, if you have a sense why it's spiking now?  And also speak to the consistency and the value of that, whether it's you guys, whether it's Miami or other teams that have held on, Boston with Doc, what are the value the owners might be missing by having consistency in that position? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  I think that in some cases one might surmise that some owners think it's easier than it really is.  It's difficult to win an NBA game, let alone playoff game‑type situation.  It's not that easy.  You don't just go draft or make this trade or sign this free agent and then it gets done.  It's very difficult.  And when things don't happen quickly, I think some owners become frustrated.  Some even take it personally, I believe.  Almost like a little bit of an embarrassment because they've been so successful in their own way and have a hard time understanding this business. 
As you think about it, it seems like it would apply no matter what your business is, if you can have continuity, a good group, a team, so to speak, and all that that entails and keep it in a continuous manner so that it grows more or less upon itself, within itself and the knowledge and understanding continues to grow you have a pretty good understanding.  You can deal with adversity and you cannot get too pumped up about success but just enjoy it and realize how fleeting it might be. 
But the change, change, change, change, change thing doesn't really work.  You can see that in a lot of organizations. 

Q.  Can you define what the consistency is for you guys in terms of a consistent philosophy, whether it's the type of players you acquire, the system that you run, just the strand that kind of links every team of yours? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  Well, the continuity I think breeds‑‑ it breeds trust, it breeds camaraderie, it breeds a feeling of responsibility that each member holds towards the other.  The ability to be excited for each other's success, not to develop territory and walls, but to stay participatory.  To be able to discuss, to argue and come out at the end on the same page with the same passion and the same goals. 
And I think without continuity that's pretty impossible, because all the immediate tendencies of instant success starts to take over and that just breeds failure. 

Q.  Coach, I'm just wondering how much it plays into the mindset of the game, your team's four prior championships.  From the standpoint of having your core been together so long, how important that is in these games, both from the perspective when you win and also when you lose? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  Well, you know, I honestly don't believe they're thinking of the previous championships.  Those are basically in the Dark Ages.  I think they're just thinking about this team and what they need to do. 
So the core has been together.  Sure, they're a lot more experienced and they're a lot older at this point, but they're just thinking about what they can do now to beat a good Miami team.  They're not thinking about lessons learned from the past.  Any of those lessons have already been absorbed and are part of the computer network, so to speak.  They're just thinking about now in this group. 

Q.  Hi, Pop.  We hear a lot in the NBA about this team really responds to adversity.  For as long as you've looked in players' eyes and hearts and things, what do you see when a group of players that's facing adversity, as opposed to when they need to go out there and professionally take care of business, whether they've won four in a row or lost four in a row or have their backs against the wall in a Finals?  Is there truly a different mindset that kicks in for certain guys, as you come across it? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  You know, I really think that's such an individual thing.  It's difficult to answer.  The thing that drives me crazy is where you win a game and of course if you were coaching the team, you would say the same things.  "We can't take anything for granted."  "We can't be too satisfied with this."  "Hey, we haven't accomplished anything yet."  All this sort of typical trade slogans. 
And you still go out and you lose the game, like we did last night.  You lose a game like we did in Game 2, and we come back and beat them in Game 3 and look like they looked last night.  That's what drives me crazy.  Because as coaches, you try to prevent that.  You would like to be a little more on an even keel and perform the same way each night.  And the only thing I can tell myself after all these years is you're dealing with people, with emotions, and not robots.  They come out and they all play hard, but there's that little intangible, that little spark of intensity or back against the wall or a little bit of fear that just seems to kick in when you've lost the previous game. 
And when you find teams that can get over that, those are the championship teams. 

Q.  Pop, along those lines, your team isn't one that get dramatically emotional either way.  You do seem to maintain that even keel.  Why do you think with this group‑‑ there might be some contentious huddles, but why do you think for this group not relying on emotion, not playing to anger or anything like that, seems to be the best route? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  I think it's just a reflection of their personalities.  If anybody is crazy in the group, it's me.  They pretty much have an even keel.  Timmy Duncan sets the tone, and he just competes.  Whether he does well or whether he does poorly, game in, game out, year in, year out, he competes and people just follow that.  Tony Parker is basically the same breed.  Manu is a little bit more emotional, as I am.  He's been doing this so long that he understands the wins in some ways are a relief, and the losses are devastating, and you can't let either affect you.  You just go on with your business. 
So after a game like last night, players, they're smart.  They don't need to be told how many turnovers they had or this, that or the other or what we have to do.  They feel it, and they'll respond in that regard, and they'll play well enough or they won't.  But it won't be for lack of effort or anything like that.  They'll just stay pretty consistent. 

Q.  Hey, Pop, is there anything that Tony may have said last night that we should be worried about looking into Sunday night's game? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  He said to whom?  I don't know what you mean what he said.  To me, you mean? 

Q.  Yeah.  Did Tony say anything to you that would give you suspicion as far as his injury that you have to look at going into Sunday? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  No, he's fine.  He'll be fine. 

Q.  Coach, Tony said last night at the press conference he wasn't at 100%.  Obviously at this point of the season it's hard to get anybody that's at 100%.  Can your team win two more games if Tony is not feeling good about where he's at health‑wise? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  You're asking me to look into crystal ball.  Depends on how well everybody plays.  If he can't play at full speed, others will have to pick up the slack, and they will or they won't.

Q.  He's shooting 44% in this series.  How important is his play towards your team's success? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  Very important.  He's been important all year long.  That goes without saying. 

Q.  What's your latest read on Manu's game?  And what do you think you might be able to do to help him out and get him in better spots?  Are you concerned about him at all right now? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  Well, of course I am.  He's having a tough playoffs, and he hasn't really found a rhythm or found his game yet.  I think that he's obviously not as confident as usual, and he knows full well that he hasn't performed the way he would like and the way he's used to.  But it's simplistic to say, what are we going to do to get him going?  He's going to get himself going or he won't. 
He knows that he's got to play better for us to be successful. 

Q.  I was just wondering four games into this series now, and I know you've gone up against the Heat plenty of times before, but is there anything that you learned about going up against Spoelstra and his coaching staff or anything that stands up to you now that's shown up in these four games that you hadn't seen before? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  No.  Not really.  We've respected what they do for the entire time that Coach Spoelstra has been there.  They're very well drilled.  They're consistent in their execution at both ends of the floor.  And the thing that makes them special is‑‑ obviously, if the three big guys play the way they did last night, that's a tough team to beat.  If those three guys can score like that consistently, they're really, really tough.  And it makes the margin of error very, very slim, which means you've got to make all your free throws, you can't turn it over the way we did, so on and so forth, or you're going to get beat. 
But they have that ability to kick it up a notch, where most teams don't.  We're a pretty consistent team, but when they go to that next level or that next gear defensively and aggressiveness‑wise, you better be prepared for it and try to take advantage of it by moving the basketball, not playing in a crowd, that kind of thing.  And our two losses against them we haven't done that very well. 

Q.  Pop, if you win Sunday, you're one win away from another championship, obviously.  I just wonder why when you are this close to achieving a goal, that is obviously the biggest goal that everybody in this sport has, and just how you live in that stress and that anxiety when you know you're this close to winning it all? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  You know, the first thing is I never think of it as that close.  I always think of it as far, far away.  I always have.  So I don't have that problem.  I don't get excited about, oh my gosh, we're right there.  That doesn't enter my head.  What I think about is how difficult that next game is going to be, and how many things we have to do well to get that done.  And I think that's a much more healthier approach.  At least it is for me. 
And the other thing I do is keep very, very busy, so I don't think about it too much. 

Q.  Also, I mentioned this before, actually in '07 when you played Cleveland and you sweep them and everybody thinks it wasn't close, but it really is a lot closer than I think people realize.  When you're at this level and you are playing against a team that's obviously good enough to be in The Finals, how small the margin is between one team and the other, no matter whether it's 4‑3 or 4‑0? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  You're exactly right.  In those games in '07 were like that.  I think about any championship that we've had going back to '99, we won in New York when Avery Johnson hit a 12‑footer on the baseline.  It's not like we whupped anybody to death.  It's a play here, a shot here or there with three minutes to go or could be a period at the end of the third period where you turn it over two or three times and the other team makes two shots.  It's a seven‑point lead and you never recover.  It's just those little moments in the game that determine the outcome.  It could be a call or a turnover.  Very, very fine line. 

Q.  Gregg, you've only lost four games this year in the postseason.  But in looking at the games looking back on those games, is there a common denominator in those losses, obviously other than the point total, that stands out to you that you have to make sure it doesn't happen in the next two or three games? 

COACH GREGG POPOVICH:  For us it's been the same during the entire season.  Oftentimes or most of the time, the great majority of the time it's about turnovers.  It's about not taking care of the basketball.  Because it's not just you gave them another possession.  But people forget you lost your possession.  You might have scored one, two or three points, or four, I guess in rare situations.  But you didn't score and the other team oftentimes‑‑ especially the better the team you play, like Miami, you turn it over and they're going to score.  It's basically a dunk or a lay‑up at the other end of the court. 
So it's always a swing of four points, at least.  And that's what really takes its toll.  That's why we were so happy after Game 1 when we just had four turnovers.  Since then we've been plagued.  Largely due to their outstanding defense.