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Gregg Popovich 'doesn't know which buttons to push', claims Sam Mitchell

Stuart Hodge - @hodgeythehack

Monday 2 December 2019 12:34, UK

 Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs looks on next to assistant coaches Becky Hammon and Tim Duncan 3:38
Sam Mitchell feels Gregg Popovich doesn't know what to do with his Spurs side, after San Antonio's 34-point loss to the Detroit Pistons

Former NBA Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell says Gregg Popovich looks confused as to how to get the best out of the San Antonio Spurs - after they were blown out by the Detroit Pistons.

The Spurs, who lost for the 11th time in 13 games, were crushed by a margin of 34 points in Motor City, with the bench players for the Pistons racking up a scarcely believable 75 points.

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San Antonio headed into the game with some confidence for the first time in a long time after shocking the Los Angeles Clippers last time out, but the capitulation against Detroit suggests their attempt to break a league record by making the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season is in serious jeopardy.

"Yes, I'm disappointed," head coach Popovich said. "We came out aggressively in our last game against the Clippers and we had energy and execution at both ends. They scored 97 and tonight we gave up 132.

"Detroit outplayed us in every facet of the game. It was brutal. I think they did everything better than we did tonight."

Gregg Popovich is using every trick he has at his disposal - but still the Spurs keep losing
Image: Gregg Popovich is using every trick he has at his disposal - but still the Spurs keep losing

This season marks the 15th anniversary of San Antonio's win over Detroit in the 2005 NBA Finals. Popovich - who has led the team to four NBA titles in total - is still coaching the Spurs, while Tim Duncan, who starred on that team, is now his top assistant coach.

The current vintage is nowhere near the standard of the teams that Duncan played in, when he formed part of the Alamo City's 'Big Three' with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

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It's not just a question of the talent though. For NBA TV analyst Mitchell, for the first time Popovich looks at a loss as to how best to try and coax consistent performance levels out of this San Antonio roster.

Mitchell said: "I think for the first time, coach Popovich doesn't understand what to do with this basketball team. A couple of nights before you play the Clippers with Kawhi (Leonard) coming back and you manhandle them. It was probably one of those wins where Pop was saying 'okay we've figured it out now'.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk of the Detroit Pistons gets in front of the San Antonio Spurs defence for a first half dunk 1:39
Highlights from the San Antonio Spurs' visit to the Detroit Pistons in Week 6 of the NBA season

"Then to go to Detroit and get smacked around by 34… The San Antonio Spurs are doing things I've never seen before: they're not moving the basketball; defensively, they're not in the right spots; they're not playing with pace, space; they're not communicating on defense. They're not doing anything right!

"And you're seeing Pop for the first time in a long time, he just doesn't know what buttons to push with this group.

"He's changed the line-up, he's taken guys out, inserted different guys in. He's doing everything that he knows how to do and thus far it's just not working."

Even with All-Star talents LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan at Pop's disposal, it's just not working for the Spurs who have cratered to a 7-14 record so far this season.

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Mitchell argues that if it continues in this way for much longer, then perhaps the franchise should consider launching themselves into a full-scale rebuild.

The analyst, who was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2007 whilst he was in charge of the Toronto Raptors, said: "You've got two legitimate All-Stars on your team and you can't win.

"Not only you're not winning, but when you're losing you're getting destroyed, you're not even in games, you're not giving yourself a chance.

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"How does that happen in today's era when everybody is saying emphatically you've got to have two All-Stars to win? They've got two and not only are they just not winning, they're getting beat badly.

"At some point, if San Antonio keeps playing like this, they've got to strongly consider blowing this thing up and starting again.

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"I know that's something you don't want to do with a Hall of Fame coach like Gregg Popovich this deep into his career but you've got to do something."

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