Before Tip-Off: Popovich, Diaw on Lillard, Batum, and Blazers

AT&T CENTER – As the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers are set to tip-off in the opening game of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, one of the best questions one probably should not ask Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is how his team will defend Blazers All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.

“How do you defend LaMarcus Aldridge?” said one media member. Popovich’s response, “As best you can.”

Popovich said like Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, Aldridge’s release on his jump shot is so difficult to contest.

Switching to Blazers All-Star guard Damian Lillard, I asked Popovich if he thinks the four years Lillard spent at Weber State helped him in his early NBA career.

“The extra time, the extra coaching in college, I think it’s a good thing for him,” said Popovich of Lillard. “You know we had that with Timmy (Duncan) and he came out pretty ready.”

“It shows on a player when he spends sometime in college,” continued Popovich, “with all the coaching, they’ve had to compete a bit long, they’ve had to go through the grind a bit longer, and they’ve learned to mature a bit. It’s a good thing.”

In the locker room, I asked Spurs forward Boris Diaw if he and fellow countryman Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum ever discussed the possibility of the three of them being in an NBA playoff game against each other, at some point in their career.

“Not specifically all three of us,” said Diaw.

I then asked Diaw if Batum might have some sort of edge in knowing Parker from their time together with the French National team over the years, and as Diaw put it, probably not.

“Everybody knows Tony,” said Diaw, “you see him on tv every night. I don’t think it matters much.”

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts mentioned there’s a possibility Batum could guard Parker Tuesday, and if not Tuesday, at some point in the series. Both coaches didn’t fully disclose some of the expected cross-matchups that are expected to take place in the series.

Here’s some sights and sounds from the AT&T Center before Game One tips off.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.