Known as a terse, serious head coach, Gregg Popovich saves the humor for moments when it doesn't really matter. If it's a hack-a-Shaq seconds into the first game of the season or an NBA Finals media day, he'll bring his best. Wednesday was the latter, and Popovich was funny and -- maybe -- honest while addressing a bevy of topics, as transcribed by The Miami Herald.
Somehow, the questioning got into Popovich's labeling of Spurs big man Tim Duncan, who sat out a game during the 2011-12 season to rest. The coach turned in a "DNP-old" on his official lineup, short for "did not play" with the reason being Duncan's age.
"He thought it was funny as hell," Popovich said of Duncan. "There were some others who did not enjoy it, but Timmy got a kick out of it and I got a kick out of it. It was fun. And it was true. He was older than dirt. That's the deal. He was tired that night. He's old.
"So I could have lied. I could have said he has a broken ankle or something. I just said he's old."
Popovich applauded Pat Riley, the maestro behind the Miami Heat's acquisition of the Big Three group that has made the finals three years running. Popovich also complimented his own Big Three, wondering aloud how differently San Antonio would've been had the trio of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili been "jerks."
"But the way it works out, all three of them are highly intelligent," Popovich said. "They all have great character. They appreciate their teammates' success. They feel responsible to each other. They feel responsible to Patty Mills or to Danny Green."
In one of the most interesting basketball-related comments, Popovich approached the subject of analytics when asked a question about the Heat and Spurs' poor rebounding totals for this season. Popovich admitted that statistics were great for learning trends, but he said that sometimes there's no rhyme or reason for changes.
"One year in the last five, six, eight years, I don't know, we were last in the league in three‑point field‑goal percentage defense," he said. "I mean, like 28th or 29th. We went into the next year - no lie - we were second. I did nothing differently. I didn't put in one more drill. Nothing. I didn't talk to them and say, guys, let's get better at this. Nothing. And we were second."
Popovich said the Spurs are still trying to understand why that change occurred in that year. Is it true? Or is it just Popovich being his usual, coy self.
Even on a day where Popovich answered every question like it was fair game, no one really knows the truth.