In the previous 19 seasons, Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs won five NBA championships and had a .710 winning percentage — an average of 58 wins in an 82-game season. And even after their 94-90 loss to the Knicks at the Garden on Sunday, the Spurs are exceeding that. They’re on pace to win 62 games.
There have been a lot of wins but not a lot of drama. Popovich says that’s no coincidence. He said that when the environment around a team is stable, “it’s easier to win.”
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The Knicks have been playing amid a swirl of potential distractions. Team president Phil Jackson has made veiled and indirect criticisms of Carmelo Anthony, even as he explores the possibility of trading him. And on Wednesday at the Garden, Knicks great Charles Oakley was ejected and arrested after an incident with security.
Garden chairman James Dolan revealed Friday on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio that Oakley has been banned from the arena. That might have faded into the background during Sunday’s win, but the All-Star lineup of former Knicks sitting courtside with Dolan kept it in view.
Popovich was asked about the tumult surrounding the Oakley ban and said, “I don’t think about it — not my problem.” And his take on the dynamic between Jackson and Anthony? “Not my problem.”
Popovich said much of the drama-free culture around his team can be attributed to the personalities and attitude in the organization. He explained that the Spurs not only examine a potential draft choice or acquisition’s performance on the floor but also “whatever we find out intel-wise.”
“They were already like that,” Popovich said of San Antonio’s personnel. “Can I make Manu Ginobili non-competitive? Probably not. People are who they are.
“So I think trying to figure out what one might [need] in a program and what you think fits best for your culture or for your style of coaching is part of the equation when you bring guys in, whether it’s the draft or free agency.”
While Popovich said he hasn’t given much thought to Jackson’s inability to turn around the Knicks’ fortunes, he has some insight.
“I did the GM thing and coached for a while,” he said. “It’s very time-consuming, or it was then. It’s got to be even more so now with the way the rules are — the book just gets thicker and thicker. Running the whole show is difficult.”