AT&T CENTER – Before the San Antonio Spurs narrowly defeated the Golden State Warriors on Friday, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was asked what he thought the Warriors would be like with new marquee addition Andre Iguodala.
Pop’s response: “I don’t know? We’ll find out.”
The follow-up question to Popovich was whether he’s watched any game footage to plan for Iguodala, and he basically said no.
“I haven’t studied any tape,” said Popovich. “It’s the fifth game of the year. This is the learning part of the season.”
It’s just six games into the young part of an 82-game NBA regular season and the Spurs lead the Western Conference as of Friday evening with a 5-1 record. However as Manu Ginobili sees it, don’t let the record fool you and be a staple of where this team currently is.
“It’s important,” said Ginobili of leading the West in the season’s infancy. “It’s not huge in the sense that we are going to finish first because we started 5-1. There are a lot of teams that started great and then they wind down and stop.”
Ginobili is sure of one thing, “It is better to start winning than losing. I don’t think we’re playing good basketball yet and we have a long way to go.”
When the Spurs finished their regular season last year, they were averaging 103 points per game, ranked as the fourth highest scoring offense in the league. Today through six games, they are only scoring 95.7 points per game.
Even though the team brought back 12 of its 15 players from last year’s Finals team, the returning squad with the additions of Marco Belinelli and Jeff Ayres have shown it’s going to take time for the new players to learn their role and build chemistry to put a productive-consistent product on the floor.
Even some of the old faces, like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Aron Baynes, and Patty Mills are being used more often and have a larger role when they’re on the floor. Those types of moments take time to build.
“I think every team is a work in progress right now,” said Popovich. “Nobody is where they want to be. Everybody’s team can get better. There’s something you can take from every game.”
Outside of their opening night win against the Memphis Grizzlies where they looked like the team from the playoffs, the Spurs have squeaked out with wins and one loss in the rest of their games this season.
“There have already been a couple games like that that we’ve won,” said Tiago Splitter Friday. “The important thing is that we win here. We are happy about that, but we know there is a lot of stuff we could do better.”
For Splitter, he says that the slow start is something that comes in the beginning of the year.
“Sometimes the ball didn’t go in the basket,” referring to Friday’s 76-74 win over the Warriors. “Sometimes, we made a mistake on defense, on our plays, on our system.”
“These are the kinds of things in the beginning of the season where we have to be sharper,” finished Splitter.
“The truth is that if you had told me we would have finished 76-74, I would have said no way,” said Ginobili of defeating the Warriors in a game where both teams scored just 13 points in the second quarter and San Antonio only scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.
For Popovich, as he now leads the Western Conference six games into an 82-game season, he knows in the early part of the year it’s not necessarily about the wins or the losses, but whether or not his team is learning from one game to the next.
“Win or lose,” said Popovich, “you need to get smarter as the season goes along.”