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Spurs' coach puts Pop into news conferences

Tuesday - 6/18/2013, 10:40pm  ET

San Antonio Spurs' Gregg Popovich and referee Tony Brothers (25) discuss action during the first half at Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series against the Miami Heat, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Basketball Writer

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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THE DISMISSIVE POP: Popovich was asked after a 109-93 loss in Game 4 why Manu Ginobili had been so ineffective to that point in the series.

"I don't know," he said. "If I knew that I would have already fixed it."

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THE INSTRUCTIVE POP: In illustrating the maturation of James before Game 2, Pop relished a chance to send a couple digs toward his favorite targets in the media.

"He's a grown man. He doesn't need any of you to tell him anything," he said. "He knows more than all of you put together. He understands the game. If he makes a pass and you all think he should have shot it, or he shoots it and you think he should have made a pass, your opinions mean nothing to him, as they should not mean anything to him."

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THE TRITE POP: Popovich was asked about his strategy going into Game 5 and whether he could do anything different after James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh struck for 85 points in Game 4.

"I'd hate to be trite and say anything is possible," he cracked. "Your question demands my triteness."

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THE CRAZY POP: Popovich said he has nothing to do with the unflappable nature of the Spurs as a team, and that it's all a testament to Tim Duncan.

"I think it's just a reflection of their personalities," he said. "If anybody is crazy in the group, it's me. They pretty much have an even keel. Timmy Duncan sets the tone, and he just competes. Whether he does well or whether he does poorly, game in, game out, year in, year out, he competes and people just follow that."

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THE COMBATIVE POP: When the Heat went small and won big in Game 4, a reporter wanted to know if Popovich thought smaller lineups were a growing trend across the NBA. Nice try.

"You're not serious," he said. "You want me to talk about the state of the NBA?"

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THE ENLIGHENING POP: While decrying the lack of job security in the coaching profession these days, Popovich let everyone know why he thought the Spurs were so successful.

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