The next time someone refers to Gregg Popovich as a “genius” they should include the qualifier “part-time.”
The haters can feel free to use the word “idiot” — although in my opinion that’s taking it a little too far.
But here are the facts: When the Spurs trailed by four points with 23 seconds left in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals, Popovich took his best player out of the game, subbing Gary Neal for Tony Parker.
I repeat: HE TOOK HIS BEST PLAYER OUT OF THE GAME AT THE MOST CRITICAL MOMENT OF THE NBA FINALS!
And then there was Game 6, when Popovich had a timeout to burn with 8 seconds left but let the Spurs run out in transition, where Manu Ginobili dribbled into three defenders and was either stripped or fouled, depending on your perspective. Then, when Miami needed a 3-pointer to tie, Duncan subbed out Tim Duncan, who had been dominating Chris Bosh throughout Game 6. And we all know what happened from there — Bosh grabbed the game’s most critical offensive rebound and found Ray Allen in the corner for the shot that tied the series and denied the Spurs a chance to end the series in six games.
Popovich’s terse responses to both personnel moves was that the Spurs always do it that way.
Well, guess what?
The Spurs also always bring Ginobili off the bench. Always.
But that changed in Game 5 when Popovich gave Manu his first start of the entire season, and Ginobili responded in studly fashion.
The bottom line is that you can’t have it both ways, Pop. With a championship on the line, you can’t get away with the excuse that you’ve done it that way all year, so why change?
More on Popovich’s coaching choices in this video with CineSport’s Noah Coslov: