Training camp report: No debate homework for Spurs

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a point to ask his players to watch the first presidential debate between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, going so far as to dispense DVD copies the following day.

There was no such homework assignment after Tuesday’s rematch, however, as the Spurs went home empty-handed. Popovich, an Obama contributor, also declined to give his thoughts on the matter.

“My opinions aren’t very important,” he said.

Popovich might have skipped the DVDs because his message sunk in. Boris Diaw, despite being unable to vote due to his French nationality, said he actually watched part of the debate.


* Popovich said Tim Duncan returned to work Wednesday after an undisclosed illness forced him to take a rare day off on Monday. Duncan might have passed on whatever he had to reserve guard Gary Neal, who stayed home on Wednesday, but Popovich wasn’t willing to speculate.

“What do I look like, Louis Pasteur?” he said when asked if a bug was sweeping through the team.

* The Spurs practice facility was swarming with a crew on hand to film one of the popular H-E-B spots starring Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Judging by , Parker is playing some kind of club doorman – maybe a bad choice considering his experience last summer in New York? No matter – Diaw expects him to nail his latest role.

“He’s a great actor,” Diaw said. “The best French actor since…who do you guys know? Gerard Depardeu. And the guy who got the Oscar. The Artist. Dujardin. Jean Dujardin. He got the Oscar in front of every American actor. That was pretty good.”

* Even though it won’t matter, Popovich said he’ll use Saturday’s preseason game at Miami as a measuring stick.

“It’s a championship team, a championship program,” he said. “You play a team like that, you get some questions answered. I’m looking forward to it.”

* Popovich also said he’s looking forward to the second leg of the Spurs’ two-day road trip to Florida, where they’ll face former Spurs assistant Jacque Vaughn in his new gig as Orlando’s head coach.

“In the preseason it’s great fun,” he said. “In the regular season we’ll be trying to beat each other’s brains in, probably after having dinner the night before. We’ll have a lot of fun with that, maybe try to screw with him, just for kicks.”

Vaughn could probably use some good advice instead; the Magic are 0-4 in the preseason.

* Popovich contrasted the presence of rookie assistant coach Ime Udoka with that of the departed Don Newman, who left to take the lead assistant role in Washington.

“Ime is going to be wonderful,” he said. “He really commands respect from the guys. The kind of professionalism he had as a player extends to what he’s trying to do now as a coach.”

Perhaps Udoka can also fill Newman’s role preventing Popovich from tearing onto the court after bad calls – although that job might be easier to fill.

“He didn’t have to work very hard at that because I rarely get (technical fouls),” Popovich joked. “He just acted like he was holding me back all the time. It was like a game.”

* Backup point guard Patty Mills (ankle) participated in non-contract drills.

Twitter: @danmccarneySAEN

Spurs notebook: Popovich keeps playbook abridged

Faced with the prospect of little practice time during last season’s NBA lockout-condensed schedule, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich approached the installation of his offensive and defensive playbooks with one acronym in mind.

KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Though blessed with ample time to tinker this preseason — the Spurs are in the midst of a stretch of five consecutive days without a game — Popovich’s theme for this year’s camp might well be KISS II.

“No, it’s not even a goal,” Popovich said Wednesday, when asked if he’s had time to open up the playbook in practice. “We’re trying to be real basic and simple all the way through camp and make sure whatever we’re doing is done well.”

Offensively, at least, it is a question of not fixing what wasn’t broken.

The Spurs were a well-oiled juggernaut in 2011-12, ranking first in the NBA in offensive efficiency and second in points per game.

Defensively, the Spurs were “a middle-of-the-road team,” according to Popovich and the numbers, and their personnel hasn’t changed much since June.

Instead of using new gimmicks to improve on that end of the floor this season, Popovich prefers his team be more disciplined with the same philosophies that were in place last season.

For players such as center Boris Diaw, forward Stephen Jackson and guard Patty Mills — who all arrived after the trade deadline last season — the decision to keep the playbook uncomplicated had led to an increased comfort level.

For now.

“So far, we’re sticking with simple, what we were doing last year,” Diaw said. “But I’m sure as the days go by, we’re going to put more things in.”

Pasteurized, posterized: Power forward Tim Duncan returned to the practice court after missing Monday’s workout with an undisclosed illness.

Reserve guard Gary Neal was not as lucky, calling in sick for the team’s two-hour practice session.

Asked if perhaps there was a bug going around the locker room, Popovich reminded that he is only a basketball coach.

“What am I, Louis Pasteur?” he said.

Mills, who is recovering from a right ankle sprain, was limited to non-contact work.

But he’s no De Niro: Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili worked overtime, filming another installment of their celebrated H-E-B commercials after practice.

Diaw was quick with the quip when asked to critique the acting chops of Parker, his friend and fellow Frenchman.

“Best French actor since — who do you guys know? — since Gérard Depardieu,” Diaw said. “And the guy who got the Oscar for ‘The Artist.’ Dujardin. Jean Dujardin.”