San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is already keeping his well-trained eye for talent on many stars around the NBA for his future task at the helm of Team USA. Recently taking a 135-129 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Popovich was particularly encouraged by a strong performance from marksman Khris Middleton, and gave him this piece of his mind after the game was over:
“I told him, I want him to act and play here like you belong,” Popovich said, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “I think that’s what he needs and what he’s showing this season. It’s just a confidence level. It sounds simple, but it’s not.”
Middleton is one of 35 players hopeful to get a spot on the final Team USA roster. The Bucks wing is also making a case for a place in the All-Star Game this season, and he scored 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor and 4-of-9 from deep in that game. Middleton gives the highest-scoring team in the league a well-balanced display of firepower that complements a phenom like Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Popovich wasn't shy to admit he's alert to other players beside his team:
“You’re looking at other players on other teams,” Popovich said. “You see something you think might fit or whatever for the group you have, and make notes about if so-and-so is on the team, what you might want to be doing. I’d be disingenuous if I said I didn’t think about it at all.”
Gregg Popovich will have plenty of talent to witness during a long NBA season and even more advice to give to players who have started to make a name for themselves, much like Middleton has over the last few years.