Spurs’ coach puts Pop into news conferences

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MIAMI (AP) - During his team’s Game 3 rout of the Heat, Gregg Popovich was shown on TV talking to his players while they were in the process of burying Miami with a stirring offensive display.

“When you’re open, let it fly,” the Spurs' coach told them. “Put your name in the paper.”

A day later, San Antonio guard Gary Neal was asked about that bit of encouragement.

“That’s what you guys hear,” Neal said with a chuckle, implying the give-and-take isn’t always so sunny.

In his 17th season coaching the Spurs and his fifth NBA Finals, Popovich is having one breakout series, with this team one win from another title entering Game 6 on Tuesday night.

It’s also been a banner finals for Popovich in the interview room. He has spent almost two weeks now being questioned about the health of Tony Parker, the Spurs' defensive strategy against LeBron James and Danny Green’s remarkable 3-point shooting.

At times, he’s been illuminating, as when he spoke admiringly of James‘ ability to drown out criticism when things aren’t going his way. At other times, he’s been funny, his dry wit and deadpan delivery drawing laughs when least expected.

Mostly, however, he’s been combative, sarcastic or just plain dismissive. Mostly, he’s just been Pop. Whether he’s dragged kicking and screaming into those live television interviews during games or he’s having his teeth pulled during postgame news conferences, Popovich has been as irascible as ever.

“Pop is always funny to me” Green said. “So when I watch his press conferences they kind of give me a good chuckle.”

One more win means Popovich will have his fifth championship. One more win means he also won’t have to do anymore news conferences for quite some time. Would winning the trophy mean more to him than ending those news conferences? Hard to say.

A look at some of Pop’s greatest hits from these finals:

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THE GOOD POP: When an 11-year-old Latino boy who sang the national anthem before Game 3 was the subject of racist remarks on Twitter, Popovich leapt to the defense of Sebastien De La Cruz.

“He’s a class act,” Popovich said. “Way more mature than most his age. And as much as those comments by the idiots saddens you about your country, he makes you feel the future could be very bright.”

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