Pregame rule likely won’t affect low-key Spurs

By Jeff McDonald

Just before the start of the Spurs’ preseason game at Houston on Sunday, Tim Duncan grabbed the ball and hugged it tight, as is his pre-tip ritual.

Lead official Ken Mauer glanced at a running clock above the Toyota Center baskets and issued a reminder: “30 seconds, Tim.”

In an effort to curb pregame routines it believes are slowing down the game, the NBA this season is emphasizing a rule that allows referees to assess a delay-of-game warning to teams whose dancing and handshaking choreography gets out of hand.

From the time the house lights go up after pregame introductions, teams are allowed 90 seconds to get jiggy. If all five players are not ready to tip off after those 90 seconds, officials can issue a warning.

Long regarded one of the NBA’s most low-key teams, the Spurs don’t expect to be affected by the rule enforcement.

“I had some 89-second handshakes worked out with my teammates,” forward Matt Bonner said. “I had to cut those out.”

Considering that Miami forward LeBron James’ elaborate chalk-tossing routine has become the stuff of shoe commercials, Bonner was asked if the new edict could rightly be called “The LeBron Rule.”

“No comment,” Bonner said. “I’m not going to say anything to get LeBron mad at me.”

Pop’s mediator: When Don Newman left during the offseason to become Randy Wittman’s lead assistant coach in Washington, it left quite a void in the Spurs’ game-day operations.

For seven seasons, Newman was the coach charged with keeping Gregg Popovich from ringing up technicals. Often, when an exchange between Popovich and a referee would get too heated, Newman would physically step between the two men and shepherd his boss back to the bench.

“He didn’t have to work very hard, because I rarely got one,” Popovich said, though perhaps that’s an indication of how good Newman was at his job. “He just acted like he was holding me back all the time.”

Newman has been replaced on Popovich’s bench by former Spur Ime Udoka, who as a member of the Nigerian national team once had to fight his way out of a gym in Algiers.

Here’s guessing Udoka is up to the task.

Habitat help: Not long after Thursday’s practice, three Spurs players zipped off to a construction site on the city’s southwest side, where hammers and hard hats awaited.

Centers Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter and guard Cory Joseph were among the Spurs Sports Entertainment employees on hand to help with various construction projects in Coleman Ridge, a subdivision developed by Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio.

The event was part of the annual citywide United Way Day of Caring.
Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

Pop scolds reporters, wife scolds Pop

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Almost as much as his championship pedigree, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is well known for his snarky sideline demeanor. Indeed, how many NBA coaches have their own highlight reels on Youtube? (See below. Personal favorite: Former Spurs assistant Don Newman cackling “Look at the shoes!” as Pop questions Craig Sager’s sartorial splendor.)

It turns out even Pop has someone to answer to: His wife, who apparently isn’t a fan of his sarcastic manner.  As he told Miami radio station :

“I know. I’m a jerk. I’m going to go ahead and admit it publically to the whole world. Tell me what to do. What should I do?… I don’t know how to answer so sue me for being stupid and not having the answers to the questions. (Host: Keep doing it, it’s entertaining.) It entertains everybody but my wife. When I get home and she says ‘geez why are you so mean? You’re a jerk, people hate you.’ I go I’m sorry honey, I have to do better next time.”

“And there’s no exaggeration. Did you see that guy honey? Did you see him? All you have to do is see him and you know why I answered the way I did. (She says) ‘That’s no excuse, you’re a grown man. Show some maturity.’ I said ‘I can’t, I can’t do it.”

Timely double-team from: .

Jazz formalize hiring of ex-Spurs exec

Assistant general manager Dennis Lindsey became the latest Spurs staff member to depart for different — if not altogether greener — pastures Tuesday, when he was formally announced as the new general manager of the Utah Jazz.

The introduction was made at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

Lindsey, the Spurs’ assistant general manager under R.C. Buford since his arrival in San Antonio following the 2007, will report to Kevin O’Connor, who remains with Utah after serving as general manager of the past 13 seasons. O’Connor will take the title of executive vice president of basketball operations as part of the Jazz’s front-office reorganization, but the day-to-day duties of running the team will fall to Lindsey.

A candidate for several jobs over the past few years, including this summer when he also interviewed for front-office openings in Orlando and Philadelphia, Lindsey told reporters in Utah he sees no need to overhaul a club that, along with the Spurs, has long been considered one of the most well-run small-market franchises in the NBA.

“I’m not trying to change the culture,” said Lindsey, who spent 11 years in various roles with the Houston Rockets before landing in San Antonio.

Lindsey’s departure creates yet another vacancy for the Spurs in what has been a summer of exodus. Since their playoff ouster to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, the Spurs have also lost vice president of basketball operations Danny Ferry to the GM job in Atlanta, assistant coach Jacque Vaughn to the head coaching chair in Orlando and Don Newman, a longtime fixture on Gregg Popovich’s bench, to the lead assistant job in Washington.