Pop Just Don’t Care
Most people in North Texas are conflicted as they watch the NBA Finals. They can’t root for either team. The Heat are, well they are the Heat. A band of mercenaries who may not have cheated the system, but they certainly beat it. They have assembled a virtual Dream Team full of guys who took less money to play there and seem willing to sacrifice individual glory to win a team title. Actually those sound like good qualities when explained that way. But the reason we hate them is two-fold. First, we are mad that the Dream Team was not assembled in our city. Secondly, the Heat are so cocky. Remember way back when they said they would win six titles? That rubs anyone north of Ft. Lauderdale the wrong way and causes us to root against the Heat no matter who they face.
Then there are the Spurs. Is there any way a good Mavs fan can root for this whiny bunch of aging floppers? I am here to tell you that there is. In fact, I am rooting for the Spurs. There I said it. And it is not just because I hate the Heat. But I like the Spurs because I like the Spurs. There is a lot to like and for me it starts with Gregg Popovich.
By way of full disclosure, I had the pleasure of covering the Spurs for Fox SW when they made their playoff runs in 2003, 05 and 07. One thing I learned during those runs is that Pop is not a big fan of the media. We can all see that when Doris Burke cowers over to him during the games to ask questions. In fairness to her, that is really tough job, and Pop wants no part of it. So if you are not perfect you will get a response like Doris did in game 2. I don’t remember the question, but the answer from Pop was, “are you serious?” She had no idea how to respond to that. Luckily for her, he threw her a bone and gave an answer despite no follow up question.
To be honest, Pop is probably easier for the locals to cover in the Finals. Because there’s so much national media surrounding him and his team, he begins to appreciate the people that cover him on a regular basis. But if I had to deal with him on a regular basis, would I like him as much? Probably not, but since I don’t here are the things I like about him; he’s funny, sarcastic, honest, caustic, smart and perhaps the biggest smart ass I have ever covered. He is also a players’ coach. This time of year that is so important and it can be the difference between handing over another title to the hated Heat or winning one more for Tim Duncan and crew.
When Pop is trying to recruit a free agent, he tells them that he will protect them from having to do too much media. I experienced this first hand one year when Michael Finley was on the team. I saw him for the first time in a long time and shared a man hug. We knew each other well from his time with the Mavs. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him for an interview, he said no problem but Pop’s henchman Tom James intervened. He said Michael could not do the interview, at which point Finley shrugged and said “sorry Rhads.” I know things like that should make me hate Pop, but I just can’t. I love his attitude and the fact that he just doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what the media thinks, he doesn’t care what the league thinks, he only cares what his players think.
That’s why the Spurs will win the series and I will smile.