The San Antonio Spurs, the model for stability and sustained success in the modern NBA, were still a shaken team when they showed up for training camp in October, less than four months after a devastating loss to Miami in the NBA Finals.
Some coaches would try to brush off the disappointment of letting a title slip through their fingers and refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
Gregg Popovich took it head on, embraced the heartache, and in a career full of masterful coaching performances, delivered perhaps his finest effort in season No. 18.
‘‘The way we lost in the
Finals wasn’t an ordinary loss, it was pretty devastating,’’ Popovich said on Tuesday after being named NBA Coach of the Year. ‘‘We decided that we needed to just face that right off the bat at the beginning of the season and get it out of the way.
“Don’t blame it on the basketball gods or bad fortune or anything like that, the Miami Heat beat us and won the championship and that’s that.’’
Popovich joined Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches in league history to take home the Red Auerbach Trophy three times in their career.
‘‘They’re on the hood of my car,’’ Popovich cracked. ‘‘One, two, three, right on the car, the way players do license plates.’’
Popovich led the Spurs to a league-best 62-20 record, which gives them home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. And he did it while deftly navigating a season filled with nagging injuries to several key players. Tim Duncan was the only starter to play in at least 70 games. No Spur averaged 30 minutes per game and Tony Parker led the team with a modest 16.7 points per game.
Despite all of that, the Spurs won at least 50 games for the 15th straight season and topped 60 for the fourth time in that span.
Popovich garnered 59 first-place votes and 380 total points in voting conducted by a panel of media members. The Suns’ Jeff Hornacek (37 first-place votes) finished second and the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau (12) finished third.
Wolves start search
Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, a former coach himself, started the search for a coach in earnest Tuesday, one day after Rick Adelman announced his retirement. It’s a move that had been expected for some time, and Saunders has no doubt been kicking around possibilities.
Hanging over the process is Kevin Love’s uncertain future in Minnesota. Love can opt out of his contract after next season.
Owner Glen Taylor has made it clear that he prefers Saunders, who also was given part-ownership status when he took the president job before last season, to remain in the front office and watch over the team’s long-term planning while a coach monitors the day-to-day fortunes of the team.
Warriors buy SF land
The Golden State Warriors agreed to terms to buy 12 acres of land in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood to build an arena.
The proposed arena will hold about 18,000 seats and the Warriors said it will be privately financed on private land near the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark.
Golden State is targeting the 2018-19 season to open the arena.
The Warriors have had great fan support in Oakland, setting the second-highest total attendance in franchise history for this season with 803,436 fans. The team sold out all 41 home games and has a streak of 79 consecutive sellouts.