When Gregg Popovich talks, people listen. It’s a reputation earned via five NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs, and the longest active tenure of any head coach in any major U.S. sports league. ‘Pop’ commands respect with his achievements.
Maybe it will take someone of the 68-year-old’s gravitas to solve the apparently intractable feud between LaVar Ball and the Lakers, which somehow has poor Luke Walton in the middle. Ball says Walton’s players, including his son Lonzo of course, are no longer willing to put in effort for their second-year coach. "You can see they're not playing for Luke [Walton] no more," Ball told ESPN last Friday from Lithuania where he’s watching LaMelo and LiAngelo begin their professional careers. "Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him."
Those comments brought the weight of the NBA coaching world down on LaVar’s head. ESPN also came in for criticism and not unfairly, perhaps, because if you keep giving someone you know is going to say controversial stuff a platform to say that controversial stuff then you become a facilitator. Rick Carlisle, the Dallas Mavericks head coach, said ESPN should stop covering Ball. Steve Kerr hit closer to the bone. "I've talked to people in the media this year. I say 'Why do you guys have to cover that guy?' They say they don't want to, nobody wants to, but our bosses tell us we have to because of the ratings, because of the readership," Kerr said in quotes reported by Business Insider. The media coverage of LaVar dwarfs that given to any other NBA dad because he says things that make people gawp, and click. (This article is probably part of the problem, too).
Popovich told ESPN that the “substance and gravitas of the source” should be taken into account when determining the validity of an individual’s opinion on basketball (or anything else, for that matter). “I think the first thing to look at is the substance and gravitas of the source that speaks,” Popovich said on Thursday night. Just stopping at that point would tell you that you don't need to listen or go any further. It's just another fan in the peanut gallery with an opinion, which is meaningless. Luke [Walton] has been schooled in this game from the time he was a little kid.”
In reality, objectively, Walton isn’t doing a bad job at all with a roster still attempting to find its way in the NBA. The Lakers beat Popovich’s Spurs 93-81 on Thursday night thanks to an intense defensive effort in the second half which didn’t suggest a team quitting on its coach. They have won three in a row. Maybe that’s enough to make LaVar, with the help of Popovich, finally listen.
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