Tonight marks the third time in 10 days that the San Antonio Spurs (45-16) and the Los Angeles Lakers (40-23) will face each other.
Both teams have looked dominant on each other’s floor, but this game has a more meaningful feeling to it because it will be the first time the Spurs face the Lakers with shooting guard Kobe Bryant.
“It’s good for our young guys to get a look at him,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich before the game.
Coach Popovich said the Spurs will approach the game the same way they approached Tuesday’s, by starting Tiago Splitter at center for DeJuan Blair, and following their same game plan.
Coach Popovich did say however, there’s a difference with Bryant playing tonight as opposed to being in a suit.
“We’ll have a tougher time guarding them,” said Popovich.
For Popovich, this will be yet another good opportunity for rookie Kawhi Leonard to enhance his “NBA education” with a look at one of the league’s most prominent scorers.
“He’s a competitive young man,” said Popovich of Leonard, “seeing Kobe is good for him, because he’ll learn a lot. Kobe can show him a few things.”
Asked if Leonard was finally becoming a little bit more vocal, coach Popovich, said Leonard is still the same way as he was at the start of the season.
“As far as I know, he hasn’t spoken,” joked Popovich. But after all the jokes, Popovich is glad to have Leonard on the team, “He’s better offensively than I was expecting,” said Popovich of Leonard.
With Bryant in uniform, Lakers head coach Mike Brown is limiting his minutes. “I’m just going to play him,” said Brown of Bryant. “He’s been great the whole time,” is what Brown said of Bryant resting seven games without any aggressiveness to push for a quick return.
Tony Parker was a major thorn in the Lakers’ side on Tuesday with 29-points, and Coach Brown said there’s no simple solution to stopping Parker.
“He’s so fast,” said Brown of Parker, “I don’t think you can take everything away from him.”
As for how the Spurs are able to have such a lethal shooting attack from the outside, Brown says it’s all about their guard play. “It’s a tough situation,” said Brown, “because they dribble-drive so well.”
And finally, Brown was once a member of the Spurs’ coaching staff. He has familiarity with the city of San Antonio as his parents currently live here. He said last night after visiting with his parents, he stopped by a local taco joint to have a quick bite to eat. The place? The Mexican restaurant Las Palapas. It’s Spurs-Lakers time once more.