Spurs notebook: Popovich appreciates Lin’s stupendous play

NEW YORK — This afternoon, and much to coach Gregg Popovich’s chagrin, the Spurs will board a team charter flight from New York to Detroit, ending a five-night, stress-free stay in Manhattan that included the hassle of only one game to play.

During his extended time in the city, Popovich has come to share at least one thing in common with other denizens of the Big Apple.

Turns out, he’s just as Lin-sane as the rest of them.

Popovich has never seen New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin play a full game, but he’s seen the highlight clips.

“He looks damn good, that’s for sure,” Popovich said.

When the Spurs arrived in New York in the wee hours Thursday morning, Lin was still barely a blip on the NBA radar. By the time they leave today, a victory over New Jersey tacked to their record, Lin is a bona fide international celebrity.

Undrafted out of Harvard, a graduate of the Development League and nearly cut by his third team this season before his recent outburst, Lin has led the Knicks to a 5-0 record in five starts at point guard.

The 109 points Lin scored in those games marks the best scoring start of any player since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976, surpassing the mark of 101 held by Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson.

Lin mania hit a fevered pitch in New York after he outdueled Kobe Bryant with 38 points to lead the Knicks past the Lakers on Friday at Madison Square Garden, less than 2 miles from the Spurs’ hotel.

“It seems out of the blue,” Popovich said. “All of a sudden, this guy is kicking everybody’s butt, and nobody can stop him. It seems improbable, and that’s why the story’s so great.”

Road killing it: Don’t look now, but the Spurs are becoming road warriors.

After starting the season 0-5 away from the ATT Center, the Spurs have won six of their past nine road games, including four in a row.

In the first three games of the rodeo road trip, the Spurs have trailed for just 13:31 of clock time. Most of that (10:15) came in a grinding 89-84 victory at Memphis that kicked off the trek.

“We’re improving on the road,” All-Star point guard Tony Parker said. “We’re going in the right direction. Just have to keep building on it.”

Worth the trip: If there was ever a season for skipping the All-Star Game in favor of a nice, relaxing vacation, this lockout-compressed campaign would be it.

Parker wouldn’t dream of it.

“I never take breaks,” said Parker, who will make his fourth All-Star appearance Feb. 26 in Orlando, Fla. “I play with the (French) national team. I played during the lockout. I love basketball.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity. I don’t get to play in the All-Star Game every year.”

Parker’s selection comes with the blessing of his coach.

“When somebody plays as good as he’s played, and worked as hard as he has, and kept us above water like he has, it’s just a thrill that he made it,” Popovich said.


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