Like most people who follow the NBA, I've got a ton of respect for David Aldridge. But when I saw the former Washington Post, ESPN and Philadelphia Inquirer scribe manning the AT&T Center's sidelines for Thursday night's matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, I'll be honest: My first thought was, "Oh, man — no Sager-Pop interview."
Never a great welcomer of reporters' questions, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has grown increasingly brusque and grouchy on-camera in recent years, especially when conducting the between-quarters interviews mandated by the league's deal with its broadcast partners, and especially when they're conducted by amazing technicolor dreamboat Craig Sager. (You might recall Pop using only four terse words to complete his obligation during Game 5 of last year's Western Conference finals.) But no Sager means no fireworks, right?
Well, about that:
"Pop, you got good ball movement throughout the third quarter — how happy were you with the shot selection, even though [the Thunder] came back?" Aldridge asked.
"'Happy?'" he responded.
"Reasonably," Aldridge said.
"'Happy?' 'Happy' is not a word that we think about in the game," Popovich answered. "You gotta think of something different. 'Happy' ... I don't know how to judge 'happy.' We're in the middle of a contest. Nobody's 'happy.' "
Least of which, one would suspect? Erin Popovich, the coach's wife, who has reportedly told him in the past to stop being a jerk and "show some maturity" during those between-quarter chats. Oh, but that wouldn't have been nearly as fun for the rest of us, now would it, Mrs. Coach Pop?
In fairness to Popovich, he had just seen his Spurs give up a 15-5 Oklahoma City run over the last 3:51 of the third quarter to turn a 61-51 San Antonio lead into a 66-all tie heading into the final frame; that kind of thing's liable to make anyone a bit salty. Especially when the final three points of that run came with less than two seconds remaining on the game clock on this play:
I mean, there can't be very many worse immediate lead-ins to a Pop interview than a 55-plus-foot buzzer-beating prayer tossed in by Eric Maynor to tie a game the Spurs had just led by double-digits. Maybe Pop just having heard somebody make fun of Air Force for that October loss to Navy, or that only jerks are wine enthusiasts, but even those are probably only equally bad antecedents.
I'd imagine that Popovich was happy with the ending of the game, which saw Tony Parker tie the game with a 3-pointer before winning it with a 20-footer at the buzzer, but I think I'm just going to keep "imagining," thanks. Seems like a better choice than asking him about it again.
Video via our friends at the National Basketball Association.
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