Gregg Popovich Comments on Golden State Warriors, Disdain for 3-Point Shot

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2015

San Antonio Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Philadelphia. The San Antonio Spurs won 119-68. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Sideline interviews may be Gregg Popovich's most hated aspect of his job, but three-pointers are running a close second.

While the San Antonio Spurs head coach understands the shot is part of the game and should be emphasized in a team's offense, he admitted on Wednesday he'll "never embrace it," per CBSSports.com's James Herbert:

I don't think it's basketball. I think it's kind of like a circus sort of thing. Why don't we have a 5-point shot? A 7-point shot? You know, where does it stop, that sort of thing. But that's just me, that's just old-school. To a certain degree, you better embrace it or you're going to lose. And every time we've won a championship, the 3-point shot was a big part of it. Because it is so powerful and you've gotta be able to do it. And nobody does it better than Golden State, and you know where they're at. So it's important. You can't ignore it.

He also discussed how the Golden State Warriors' three-point shooting makes them so hard to game-plan against.

"We all think about that all the time, right?" Popovich said. "Because nobody is as powerful with that three-point shot as Golden State is. To date, none of us has figured it out."

San Antonio has had success against the Warriors in the past, especially at home, where the Spurs haven't lost a regular-season game to Golden State since 1997. The Spurs also beat the Warriors in their last playoff matchup—the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals—but have yet to meet the reigning champions since they started hitting their peak.

During Popovich's time on the sidelines, the Spurs have often built their offenses around players who don't specialize in the three-pointer, with Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Tony Parker the most notable examples.

However, Popovich hasn't let his attitudes about the three cloud his strategic approach. The Spurs generally aren't vitally dependent on three-pointers even after the increased emphasis on attempting them, but they've maintained a healthy presence from beyond the arc over the years.       

Spurs Three-Point Shooting Per Game Under Gregg Popovich
Season3PM3PA3P%Pace
1996-974.6 (25th)14.4 (23rd).320 (28th)87.3 (26th)
1997-983.7 (20th)10.5 (23rd).350 (14th)88.4 (23rd)
1998-993.4 (24th)10.4 (25th).330 (19th)88.6 (19th)
1999-004.0 (23rd)10.8 (24th).374 (6th)90.8 (24th)
2000-015.4 (10th)13.3 (15th).407 (1st)89.6 (23rd)
2001-025.3 (11th)14.8 (12th).362 (10th)90.0 (19th)
2002-035.5 (11th)15.5 (11th).354 (11th)90.0 (23rd)
2003-045.0 (17th)13.9 (18th).358 (6th)89.2 (19th)
2004-056.2 (12th)17.0 (13th).363 (8th)88.9 (23rd)
2005-066.4 (10th)16.6 (16th).385 (2nd)88.5 (23rd)
2006-077.3 (6th)19.0 (7th).381 (3rd)89.8 (27th)
2007-087.2 (9th)19.6 (10th).369 (11th)88.8 (28th)
2008-097.6 (6th)19.8 (10th).386 (3rd)88.4 (26th)
2009-106.8 (11th)18.9 (11th).358 (11th)91.7 (20th)
2010-118.4 (4th)21.1 (7th).397 (1st)92.3 (14th)
2011-128.4 (2nd)21.3 (7th).393 (1st)92.9 (7th)
2012-138.1 (7th)21.5 (7th).376 (4th)94.2 (6th)
2013-148.5 (12th)21.4 (16th).397 (1st)95.0 (10th)
2014-158.3 (12th)22.5 (15th).367 (6th)93.8 (17th)
2015-166.9 (23rd)18.8 (23rd).366 (7th)94.1 (25th)
Source: Basketball-Reference.com

The three became a steadily more prominent feature of San Antonio's game in the early-to-mid 2000s, and the team climbed into the top 10 for both made and attempted three-pointers in 2006-07. To a certain extent, that rise coincided with the Phoenix Suns' offensive renaissance under Mike D'Antoni.

Although it's somewhat surprising to see the Spurs' dip in three-point shooting this year, that was to be expected after the team signed LaMarcus Aldridge in the offseason.

Sports are often cyclical. One team finds success with a certain strategy before the rest of the league catches up, and the whole process starts over again, much like what happened with the Suns.

Stephen Curry believes the change is already slowly happening.

"Eventually everybody's going to be a point guard, a point forward," Curry told Sam Alipour for ESPN The Magazine. "You're seeing it in AAU ball now—kids growing up, everybody wants to play point, which is fun. Of course we'll backtrack when the next big man comes along and sparks a shift, and then we'll copy that."

At some point, the Warriors' style could become outmoded, whether as a result of rule changes by the NBA or a confluence of other factors. Until that happens, winning a title without consistent three-point shooting will be nearly impossible, a point Popovich accepts, albeit grudgingly.

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