What the Spurs and Kings said after Friday’s game

The Spurs media service people were  busy after Sacramento’s 88-86 victory over San Antonio.

Here’s a sampling of the post-game comments from both locker rooms.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

 (Was the defensive rebounding in the first half a first indication that it might be a difficult night?)

“We dug ourselves a hole, not rebounding well and not getting back on “D”.  They got inside of us and we got into a deep hole that was the worst part of the game.  The best part was that the guys hung tough and dug themselves out; got back in the ballgame and got the lead and did a great job after playing so poorly in the beginning.  Down the stretch, they knocked down three jumpers in a row.  We defended it and they knocked them down, give them credit.  During that period, we turned it over twice.  A bad combination if you’re having trouble scoring and turning it over down the stretch when the other teams knocking them down.  That’s the ballgame.”

(Was Tim Duncan sitting in the fourth quarter about four games in five nights?)

“No. The group that was out there was blitzing and doing a great job.  They got us back in the game and they got us a six-point lead at one point.”

Spurs guard Tony Parker:

(On the performance down the stretch in the fourth quarter)

“Tough loss. They just never went away as the whole game was weird, as we couldn’t hit a shot. We had some great shots that were wide open as we were 5-25, so it’s going to be tough to win a game shooting 38 percent. We still had a chance as we played good defense which gave us an opportunity to win the game as it just didn’t go our way. During the last 3-4 possessions they made every shot as we didn’t make shots. That’s basketball.”

(On having a short memory with the Houston game tomorrow)

“Definitely. It’s going to be a tough one as it’s always hard to play over there but we’re going to give it everything we got.”

 (On whether energy was a problem at the beginning of the game)

“I don’t know. It’s a tough season with a lot of games as I just felt like Sacramento just jumped on us. They shot the ball very well as we were down 15 but we came back. We fought through it as we had a great chance to win the game. In the fourth quarter, we were up as we just didn’t make the stops that we needed to win the game.”

(On making his first 3-pointer and the rough night for the team overall in that area)

“It was a weird night. We had great shots that were wide open whether Matt Bonner, Danny Green or Gary Neal. I felt like every time I penetrated everybody was in the paint and we had a great shot. That’s basketball, sometimes it’s going to go in and sometimes it’s not going to go in.”

(On making threes in the fourth quarter and if that will provide a spark in future games)

“I don’t know, we’ll see as I’ll tell you tomorrow. We’ll see but if it doesn’t go in, we’ll have to do something else. Whether we penetrate, get some points in the paint, get Timmy or DeJuan Blair going, we’ll just have to do other stuff if we’re not going to make shots.”

(On if he felt awkward seeing Tiago Splitter out there in a tight game instead of Duncan)

“I think Pop is trying to manage Timmy’s minutes as Tiago has been playing great for us. He’s improving every game, he was playing well and I think Coach Pop just stuck with Tiago. He’s been playing well for us.”

Spurs guard Gary Neal:

(On whether this was a game where the Kings shots went in and the Spurs shots did not)

“Yeah, for the most part that’s pretty much what it was. We kind of struggled in the fourth quarter to score the ball and make shots. They made shots down the stretch as you have to give them credit for that.”

(On having a short memory with the game tomorrow in Houston)

“Yeah, the game is over now as you can’t change it and you can’t control it. We just have to get ready to play Houston tomorrow and hopefully try to get a win.”

(On how he was feeling tonight after coming back from his injury)

“I feel O.K.; I’m just missing shots as it is what is. I had probably about four or five easy shots as they just didn’t go in as I just got to keep working. It’s frustrating, but I just got to keep working.”

Kings coach Keith Smart:

(On the Kings’ overall play in the game.)

“I just want to say these guys are responding in a very positive way.  We come in here not having a chance to play, but they played hard and got off to a great start. The start was critical against a team like this. We had the opportunity to a great start and make them chase us. Now understand in an NBA game, you won’t have situations where you have a 15-point lead in the first quarter, in the first half. Teams are going to make runs. Especially good teams at home, so we knew that part. We wanted to stay real, real close, so we had a chance late in the game where we made a ton of plays down the stretch, where guys did a great job. We shot the ball very well, the first time in a game with a winning effort for us, because we’ve been down to the 29th percentile (on offense). John Salmons, who had been struggling, made some critical plays and shots down the stretch. I got to get this out, Francisco Garcia came up to me during a time out and whispered into my ear, ‘Coach, leave Johnny in. Let him go. Let him play.’ And that’s a compliment from a team player right there. He wants the team to do well. He wants John (Salmons) to do well and that’s the partnership we’ve got to form with each individual. More importantly, this group played a great game. Tyreke (Evans) almost had a triple-double, made some big plays, rebounded, and moved the ball how I wanted him to move the basketball, getting other people involved. So right now, tonight anyway, the best guys on our team played well.”

(On the Kings’ strong start to the game.)

“I’m trying to get this team to become a running team. We have the ability to become a running team that can rebound. That’s unusual when you have a running team that can rebound, but we have the strength of a young team that are good rebounders. So we got out to a great start. You saw early in the game, we had several opportunities where our bigs were finishing plays off the break. The luxury that we have is that our bigs are bigs that can run, they can rebound, and that’s a luxury. Then you have perimeter players that can push the ball. They haven’t been in the kind of shape that’s necessary to be able to be a running team right now, but we are getting there. We’re beginning to put together strings of where we can get out there and run, and once we get in the open court, we can have our fun and play off of each other from there.”

(On the team’s composure closing out the fourth quarter.)

“I think it was a combination of myself and a combination of the players. Now give them credit because they held their composure. One of the assistant coaches made a great comment in a time out. Our staff is a great complement of each other as well, and he said, ‘Guys, we’re on the road, down by two, against this team right here. We wouldn’t trade that for anything to be in this position right here.’ I think the conversation that we’re having amongst ourselves in our time-outs and our huddles is calming the guys down. It is my job now to make sure I get the right play in and the ball to the right people’s hands to make the plays. I called a couple of plays for John Salmons to get the ball to his hands in the area of the court where he can operate pretty well, and he made the shots that were necessary. I think we’re growing. We’re not there yet because we still have a couple of animals on the road that we’ve got to deal with, but tonight was a big step. These guys did something that they haven’t done here in a long time, which is winning a game here. I’ve been in the league for a long time and have never had success in this building. It’s one game, I know, but when you’re trying to build something special, every road win counts for our basketball team.”

Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans:

(On overall thoughts about the game.)

“We just kept pushing the ball. Once we pushed the ball like that, we can beat anybody. We got one of the youngest teams in the league so we have to push the ball.”

(What does this do for the team’s confidence?)

“It shows what type of team we have. We have all the pieces to the puzzle. We have length, big men, and guards. We just have to go out there and play hard for 48 minutes. This shows what type of team we can be.”

Sacramento Kings guard John Salmons:

(What did it mean for the team to go to you in final minutes?)

“It means a lot. I had a lot of coaches in the past that with a guy struggling like that would give up on me. The fact that he continued to believe, meant a lot to me. But for all the coaches in the past, some of them would have stopped believing. They wouldn’t have gone to me in that position.”

(Have you talked to the coach about letting you play through shooting struggles?)

“No, it’s on me. I’m sure if I’m playing well, I’ll be in at the end of the game. It’s just I have to play better. So, I won’t blame the coach or anybody else for not playing me at the end of the game. I just have to do better, that’s been my mentality. I can’t take it personally if he doesn’t play me at the end of the game.”

(How does the win feel for you guys?)

“It’s probably the biggest win of the year so far for us. A playoff-tested team, a championship team. They have banners in the rafters and for us to come and get a win like that in a close game that, just says how much this team has grown. If we can continue to get better, we can shock a lot of people. ”

Will KD really ever be accepted in Oklahoma?

Kevin Durant by every account is the kind of NBA superstar a league could build its foundation upon.

Unfailingly polite. Religious. A team player. And he even has an air of mystery as we try to figure out what he carries in his ever-present backpack.

Durant is the future of the NBA after leading the league in scoring last season and taking the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder to the Western Conference Finals. With a young core on his roster, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to believe the Thunder  and Durant could be among the NBA elite for a number of years.

Despite Durant’s talents, he has one character flaw that many Oklahoma fans will never forgive him for. Namely, he attended the University of Texas for one year and has the audacity to flash the “hook’em” sign and brag of his old school’s football exploits.

It started when he arrived with the rest of the Seattle SuperSonics when they arrived in 2008. 

Oklahoman beat writer Darnell Mayberry reported that Durant on his first day.

At that year’s Thunder media day, Durant said he “loves being in Oklahoma thus far and I’m going to love playing for (the people here).”

Durant then was asked if he could ever root for the Sooners.

“Never,” Durant vowed.

He’s lived up to his words during his time in the area. He’s attended OU football games, adding the phrase “Hook ‘em Horns” to each autograph he’s signed while at Owen Field.

Durant has sat courtside at OU basketball games and flashed the two-finger Hook ‘em Horns sign. He’s even taken his needling the Sooners and Bob Stoops on Twitter. On Saturday, Durant posted a simple but damning message that raised the hackles of Sooner Nation with :


It’s even caught the attention of the Sooners, who fell behind LSU in both major polls after last week’s games.

OU sophomore defensive back Tony Jefferson had aon this tweet:  

“Kevin Durant. Please stop talking trash about the sooners.. You play in Oklahoma. Regardless if you went to Texas. We support u 🙁 “

Mayberry provides a lengthy and impassioned defense on why Durant should be able to support his old school.

But the limits of freedom of speech apparently don’t stretch very far.

Particularly in Oklahoma among OU fans.

Peers applaud Spurs great Gilmore

By Mike Monroe

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Spurs great George Gervin remembers his first game against the Kentucky Colonels during his rookie season in the ABA.

The 20-year-old Gervin had joined the Virginia Squires for the final half of the 1972-73 season after leaving Eastern Michigan University.

Early in that first game against the Colonels, one of the ABA’s best teams, Gervin found himself sprinting on a fast break. Two strides past midcourt, he wheeled toward the basket, grabbed a pass and then took one long, loping stride. He rose and extended his right arm to roll the ball off his fingertips with just the right spin, certain it would settle softly into the net.

Before the ball had gotten more than a few inches from his fingers, Gervin watched a huge hand appear, as if from nowhere, to smack the ball into the stands.

Gervin’s signature shot, the finger roll, had run smack into the “A-Train,” rejected by Artis Gilmore, the 7-foot-2 center who had caught up with Gervin from behind.

“We’d all heard Artis could block a lot of shots,” Gervin said. “But I didn’t know the cat could run the floor like that. I could put that finger roll up and over just about anybody, but Artis, well, he was something else. Man, Artis even blocked one of Dr. J’s (Julius Erving) dunks in that game. He really made his presence known.”

Years later, Gilmore would join Gervin in San Antonio, where he played for five seasons and represented the Spurs at two NBA All-Star Games. Tonight, he will represent the Colonels, the Chicago Bulls and the Spurs when he is inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2011.

Gilmore will become the third player with strong Spurs ties to reach the Hall, preceded by Gervin (1996) and David Robinson (2009).

His presence there is long overdue, and it took the establishment of a new committee, convened for the express purpose of recognizing the ABA, to finally pay proper homage to a player who scored 24,941 points and grabbed 16,330 rebounds in 17 ABA-NBA seasons.

While he enters as the first to be chosen by the new committee, Gilmore’s entire body of work is Hall worthy, including his two seasons at Jacksonville University. There, he averaged 22.7 rebounds, an NCAA record that still stands, and led the Dolphins to the NCAA championship game in 1970.

Snubbed by the Hall for nearly two decades, Gilmore never expressed bitterness at his exclusion. At a pre-induction news conference Thursday, however, emotions nearly got the best of him. Acknowledging what an earlier enshrinement would have meant to his mother, who died six years ago, his eyes watered and he had to pause before continuing.

“I’m a very emotional guy,” he said. “I express my emotions. But for my grandkids I need to try and hold it together.”

Gilmore was 33 by the time he arrived in the Alamo City in 1982, the best days of his career behind him. Nevertheless, Gervin recalled the excitement that surrounded his arrival.

“The big fella coming to San Antonio really lifted our spirits,” Gervin said. “He was still a dominant force when we got him. With him, we always felt we had a chance to defeat the Lakers. We felt that matchup with him and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) gave us a competitive center in the middle.”

Bob Bass was the Spurs general manager who acquired Gilmore.

“After we made that deal, we were able to stay with Jabbar,” Bass said. “Defensively, he could do a job on Jabbar. I will tell you this: After he joined the team, I felt like when you walked out of the building after a game against the Lakers you didn’t feel like Jabbar had just dominated, like he had in past years.”

Gilmore believes he did what the team expected of him in that matchup.

“Yeah, Kareem and I matched up pretty well,” he said. “But Magic Johnson and James Worthy, well that was kind of overpowering in those particular areas.”

It was his domination of the ABA for five seasons that led the new committee to put his name forward for enshrinement.

Why did Gilmore pass on the established league in favor of the fledgling ABA?

Growing up with eight siblings in a three-room house in tiny Chipley, Fla., Gilmore had picked cotton and watermelons from a young age to help feed the family. When the Colonels came calling, with promises of a six-figure salary, the choice was easy.

“Back then, nobody in Chipley dreamed of being in any Hall of Fame some day,” he said. “Back then, the dream was to get out of the cotton fields and be able to put food on the table.”

Gilmore was both ABA Rookie of the Year and MVP in 1971-72, when the Colonels won 68 games. But not until Hubie Brown was hired to coach the team in 1974 did the Colonels realize their full potential.

An assistant to Larry Costello on the 1971 NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, who featured Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor), Brown brought with him the inside-out, half-court offense that had optimized Abdul-Jabbar’s dominant skills.

“We had a rule, as with Kareem,” Brown said. “Every third time down the floor, (Gilmore) had to get the ball in the post with a play, and he backed that up because in the ABA he shot over 60 percent, and in the NBA he still has the record, No. 1 (59.9 percent). And he never tried to do things just to get up shots. He did what he did best, and the fact he could be a team player defensively, with the rebounding and shot-blocking and stay within the offense and shoot such a high percentage, that’s a staggering stat.”

In their first season under Brown, the Colonels romped to the 1975 ABA title, losing only three of 13 playoff games. They beat the Indiana Pacers in the ABA Finals 4-1, with Gilmore scoring 28 points and grabbing 33 rebounds in the series clincher.

When the Colonels folded in 1976, Gilmore became the No. 1 pick in the ABA dispersal draft, going to the Bulls. Chicago went from 24 victories to 44 in Gilmore’s first season, but had only one more winning season during the six-year stint in Chicago.

Could that have been the reason he never gained traction as a Hall of Fame candidate in the past?

“I couldn’t answer that,” Gilmore said. “I don’t know why.”

And finally, as of tonight, it no longer matters.