Gregg Popovich utilized an out-of-the-box strategy last work, and it almost worked.
Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs faced off against the Los Angeles Clippers. The defending champion Spurs dropped the contest 119-115 after losing yet another fourth quarter lead. This has become a common occurrence for an aging Spurs squad.
However, the story of the game was not the continued struggles of the Spurs, which has them sitting in fourth place in Southwest Division and seventh in the Western Conference (as of Sunday night). The story was the strategy implemented by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Popovich’s strategy was simple: He chose to minimize the Clippers’ scoring opportunities by choosing to foul Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (in a close game) and make him earn his points at the free throw line. Jordan currently happens to be the second-worst free throw shooter in the NBA at 40.9 percent.
Popovich’s plan was effective. Jordan was 10-of-28 at the line (36 percent), but unfortunately it was not effective enough for the Spurs to get the win.
Popovich took a lot of criticism for his decision. Critics of Popovich’s strategy said it wasn’t fair and that it wasn’t how basketball was meant to be played — the criticisms have been endless. The announcers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal even talked about whether there should be a rule against this type of strategy.
My opinion: absolutely not! This strategy, although it may not make for the most exciting games or appease the fans who pay a hefty price to be at these games, is a fine strategy to use. Even though the Spurs lost, it was no doubt an effective defensive game plan that took points off the board for the Clippers.
People may not like Popovich’s most recent coaching decision or other decisions he has made in the past that have also raised a few eyebrows over the course of his 19 years as Spurs coach. However, the reality is this: Gregg Popovich does not make millions of dollars just to make games fun and exciting. He gets paid to win games.
Winning is exactly what Popovich does. As a coach, he is a five-time NBA champion, a three-time NBA Coach of the Year, a six-time Western Conference champion and a three-time All-Star Game head coach.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, let’s remember that even though you may not like what he did, it was perfectly within the rules of the game.
Personally, I cannot find a valid reason for why Popovich or any other coach, at any level, should not be permitted to do this.
As a coach, your job is to find a weakness in your opponent and exploit it to win the game. Popovich found that weakness and exploited it. Unfortunately, he did not win, but as a coach, he put his team in position to win the game by exploiting an opponent’s weakness.
Barkley said it best when he said, “I don’t think you can change a rule because guys don’t do something well. I hate the play, but you can’t change the rule just because guys can’t make free throws.”
Although Barkley hates the play, I love the play and would encourage other teams to use the same strategy against Jordan and the Clippers in the future. Free throws are a vital part of every basketball game. If Jordan, or any other player for that matter, does not want this to happen again, the solution is simple: Learn how to make free throws!
Christopher Miller is a junior studying broadcast journalism and sport management. Do you agree with him about this strategy? Let him know at email@example.com or @MLLRC93.