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June 9, 2003

Bill Schoening's 20-Second Timeout: Spurs Entering The Zone

Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich makes no bones about it...he hates playing zone defense.

With the zone outlawed for so many years in the pro game, Pop is much more comfortbable with in your face man to man, the style of defense that has defined the Spurs during the Popovich era.

Lucious Harris drives into the teeth of the Spurs' zone defense.
(Jed Jacobsen/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Spurs, however, have met with some success when employing a zone (it resembles a 3-2) against the Nets in the finals. The Nets are much more comfortable when they're penetrating and slashing, and when a zone is executed properly, it takes away those elements of an offense. The Nets shot just .370 in the Game 3 loss to the Spurs when San Antonio used more zone than Pop is probably comfortable with. After all, it's much more difficult to box out offensive rebounders when a team is playing a zone, so don't expect a full diet of it during the remainder of the series.

But don't be surprised if the Spurs use it as a "change-up" defense, just to give the Nets a different wrinkle and get them out of their offensive rhythm. Pop says blame it on Assistant Coach P.J. Carlesimo, who spent many years in the college game, where zones are much more prevalent.

This might not be Seton Hall, but is North Jersey, and your zone is doing okay, P.J.