Spurs notebook: Popovich says rest, energy trump victories

With the regular season down to its final 14 games — to be played over the next 20 days — coach Gregg Popovich insists the Spurs’ depth is more important than it has been all season.

“Going down the stretch here we’re a lot more concerned with health and energy than we are wins and losses, as long as we’re theoretically getting better,” he said.

“I’d like to see us get better defensively in certain ways. As long as we’re trying, as long as we’re on that path, our health and our energy are more important than anything, because in the West, anybody can beat anybody, one through eight.”

The Spurs are one of two teams in the league with 10 players averaging more than 20 minutes per game. Stephen Jackson, who joined the team on March 17 after a trade deadline deal with the Golden State Warriors, isn’t playing quite as much as the player he replaced, Richard Jefferson, but he is averaging 22.1 minutes per game for the nine games he has played in silver and black this season.

Popovich understands the depth will make for some difficult decisions when he shortens his player rotations for the playoffs, as he always does.

“Rotations always get a little shorter at that time,” Popovich said, “but that’s just the way it is.”

Popovich didn’t rest any of his key players in the back-to-back set that produced Tuesday-Wednesday victories in Cleveland and Boston, but newcomers Boris Diaw and Patrick Mills didn’t see any court time in the second game, against the Celtics.

While the Australian Mills came to the team with an advantage of having played the Spurs offense as a member of the Australian national team, which is coached by Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown, Diaw acknowledged it will take some time to learn the team’s plays.

“I don’t have a timeline for learning everything, but it’s getting better every game, game to game,” he said. “There are times I’m in the wrong spot on the floor. There’s still some of that, so it’s going to take a little bit.

“What’s important is that I get to know my teammates, them getting to know me and just learning to play together so we can be the most efficient as possible. That’s what I’m trying to do right now, just getting things right and getting to know everyone on the court.”

What’s in a name? Though he’s grown accustomed to being called “Patty” by nearly everyone around the NBA, Mills said he much prefers to called by his given name, rather than the truncated nickname.

“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “Either one is all right, but if you really want to know which I prefer, well, it’s Patrick.”

Mills was the Spurs’ top scorer in Tuesday’s blowout victory over the Cavaliers, scoring 20 points to become the 11th different player to lead the team in scoring this season.


Twitter: @Monroe_SA

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