Coach Popovich, Parker, Ginobili discuss Grizzlies before Conference Finals


It’s 2013. The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies are about to face off in another playoff series after the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs two years ago in the first round.

Unlike 2011, Manu Ginobili is healthy, Tiago Splitter is a key player, Kawhi Leonard is a Spur, Boris Diaw is a Spur, and Richard Jefferson is already on vacation. The Grizzlies too have new faces with Tayshaun Prince, Jerryd Bayless, and Quincy Pondexter. For them, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, and Greivis Vasquez are now gone.

“(We) make no comparisons to anybody we’ve played in the past,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich Saturday, the eve before the Conference Finals begin at the teams practice facility.

“Everything sticks,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili of remembering how the team was two wins away from making the NBA Finals a year ago. Ginobili too much mentioned the series from 2011, but he also remembers every series since his rookie campaign.

“Everything builds up to who you are now,” finished Ginobili of all his experiences in the playoffs.

On the Grizzlies, the Spurs know they’re about to face their toughest defensive foe of any they’ve played so far in the playoffs. “A very good basketball team,” said Popovich. “One of the top defensive teams in the league,” continued Popovich, “finding ways to score is going to be difficult.”

“They’re very physical,” said Parker. “They create a lot of turnovers.”

“It’s more like the Lakers,” said Ginobili of the Grizzlies being a post-oriented team. “They have the best defense in the league.”

A player who allows the Grizzlies to have a premier defense is the defensive player of the year, Marc Gasol. A player Ginobili and Parker know all too well from their experience of playing him overseas.

Parker said Gasol has great “position defense” but added “he knows I’m coming.”

“He’s one of the best for sure,” said Ginobili of Gasol. “He’s longer and gets in good position.” Ginobili said Gasol’s style of defense reminds him of Tim Duncan, who too doesn’t go for highlight blocks but instead puts his body in the right position.

On Memphis’ point guard Mike Conley, Parker had plenty of praise.

“He’s very underrated,” said Parker of Conley. “For me, he’s definitely Top 10 point guards in the league.” Parker also said he expects Grizzlies two-time all-first team defender Tony Allen to spend some time defending him. “Definitely,” said Parker of thinking Allen might defend him. “I’ll be ready.”

Lastly, with all the talk of defense from the Grizzlies, the Spurs know the only way they’ll be able to score in the series is by moving the ball around the floor and looking for the best shots possible.

“We’ve got to move the ball,” said Parker of scoring on the Grizzlies, “play ‘Spurs’ basketball.” Ginobili added the Spurs would have to be “strong on the boards” to help in the rebounding department.

But Ginobili also reemphasized what Parker said, “It’s all about moving the ball.”

Game 1 tips off at 2:30 PM CST Sunday at the AT&T Center.