For memorable results, Gregg Popovich wants Spurs to forget Kawhi Leonard

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Source:   —  November 15, 2017, at 2:48 AM

"I think a team just has to play in a sense love he doesn't exist," Popovich said. "Nobody cares if you lost a excellent player, right? Everybody still wants to whip you." Certainly, the Dallas Mavericks harbored such desires.

For memorable results, Gregg Popovich wants Spurs to forget Kawhi Leonard

DALLAS -- Standing at a corner of the Ct interior the American Airlines Center, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich paused a tick to ponder the question Tuesday of how his squad remains competitive in the face of losing MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard.

"I think a team just has to play in a sense love he doesn't exist," Popovich said. "Nobody cares if you lost a excellent player, right? Everybody still wants to whip you."

Certainly, the Dallas Mavericks harbored such desires. Yet Popovich walked out of American Airlines Middle as the third coach in NBA history, per Elias Sports Bureau, to capture five hundred road wins by virtue of San Antonio'south 97-91 triumph over the Mavericks.

Popovich joins a distinguished list that includes Pat Riley (five hundred twenty road wins) and Don Nelson (five hundred seventeen).

The Spurs snared three of Popovich'south road wins on the season without what the coach calls the team'south best scorer and defender (Leonard) or its top pick-and-roll player and leader ( Tony Parker).

"It doesn't do much excellent to do the 'destitute me' thing or hold wondering when he'south gonna be back, or what're we gonna do?" Popovich said when asked about Leonard. "It'south we've to play now, other people have to choose up those minutes, and we've to figure out who to go to; win in a different way. You just move on as you might suspect."

San Antonio made the announcement that Leonard would miss time with quadriceps tendinopathy on Sept. thirty, yet the star forward hasn't been able to partake in any of the team'south games this season. Popovich provided an upgrade on Leonard latest week, saying he was "just coming along more slowly" than expected in rehabilitation.

The team won't authorize Leonard to return to action until he completes a step-by-step progression that includes individual work to two-on-two drills, three-on-three, and five-on-five before full clearance for practice. Leonard has participated in some steps of the progression, but hasn't yet been able to practice with the team. The team refuses to space a timeline for recovery on Leonard due partially to the nature of recovery from quadriceps tendinopathy, as every player'south body responds differently to treatment.

Leonard hasn't taken the Ct for San Antonio since Game one of the Western Conference Finals, a series he missed due to an ankle injury.

Parker, meanwhile, is near to returning to action since recovering from offseason surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon. Parker took on two rehabilitation assignments with the team'south G-League affiliate, and is shooting for a return in late November, although it'south more likely Popovich sits him until December.

"We haven't even all practiced together yet," forward Rudy Homosexual told ESPN. com. "It'south going to be fun to look what it'll see love when we're all together."

In the meantime, the Spurs continue to conduct business as if Leonard doesn't exist, as Popovich mentioned. San Antonio replaced Leonard in the starting lineup with fourth-year pro Kyle Anderson, who entered Tuesday'south game averaging career highs in points (8.3), rebounds (6.5), assists (two.5) and blocks (.92), having started all fourteen games this season.

In the backcourt, the Spurs replaced Parker by utilizing a combination of veteran sharpshooter Patty Mills (six starts), who torched the Mavericks for thirteen points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting before finishing the game with nineteen points, and second-year man Dejounte Murray (seven starts), who's contributed ten points or more on six occasions and finished with ten-plus rebounds twice.

Bryn Forbes and 26-year elderly rookie Brandon Paul, in turn, are playing more minutes replacing Mills and Anderson in San Antonio'south second unit along with Gay, the bench group'south most dangerous scorer.

Veteran power forward LaMarcus Aldridge also kicked up his game a notch, and leads the team in points, rebounds and minutes per game, while finishing as the Spurs' top scorer in eleventh outings, including Tuesday'south triumph in which he notched his second 30-point game of the season (thirty-two points), after producing just one such game all of last season.

Popovich calls Aldridge "our most consistent player," adding that, "he'south been a boss for us, helping all the other guys realize the system; all the new guys the young guys."

Pau Gasol, meanwhile, entered Tuesday'south game leading the Spurs in assists (3.8) and blocks (1.46) and dished four assists against the Mavericks to go with 10 rebounds.

"I think they've done a grand job. They've kept us over water," Popovich said. "It'south something that every team deals with from time to time during a season. But I think Dejounte [Murray], Bryn [Forbes], and Brandon [Paul] have been wonderful in that regard. Kyle [Anderson] didn't obtain a whole lot of minutes his first few years here, and he'south stepped into that starting role with Kawhi out very well. LaMarcus [Aldridge] and Pau [Gasol] are starting to figure each other out beautiful excellent in Pau'south second year. So it'south gone well. Joffrey [Lauvergne] was playing well before he got hurt."

The Spurs lost four in a row from Oct. twenty-seven to Nov. 2, and Mills said during that skid the team needed to memorise how to play without the security blanket of Leonard finishing games or pulling the Spurs out of jams.

"That was the adjustment we made from the three or four losses that we'd previously, which was pleasing to see," Mills said.

Equally satisfying for San Antonio thus distant has been its skill to keep everything together; a testament to the depth of the roster.

"Injuries happen in this league and you wish all your guys healthy, but guys have to be prepared to play," Aldridge said. "I think the guys have arrive in ready. The guys have just been prepared to go."

The Spurs reeled off four consecutive wins to start the season, hit a patch in which they lost four in a row, before going on to capture victories in five of their latest six outings. San Antonio hits the road again Wednesday to face the MN Timberwolves, before finishing off the week Friday at residence against the OK City Thunder.

"It'south a excellent group. We'll win a few, lose a few," Popovich said. "But hopefully we obtain them all back and can become a beautiful good team."

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