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Team USA’s Gregg Popovich jokes about voiding NBA contracts if they don’t play good defense


San Antonio Spurs and Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich has always approached coaching with a dry sense of humor. From his on-court interviews to his press conferences, Pop is always a good soundbite.

Popovich supplied yet another gem when asked about the defensive pressure that Team USA has applied to their opponents during the FIBA World Cup (via Tim Reynolds of the AP):

Through four games, the unbeaten Americans — who face Brazil on Monday — have held opponents to 36% shooting. And they’ve given up a total of 98 points in their last two games, the stingiest two-game run by any U.S. men’s team in a big tournament since the 1988 Olympics.

“I told them that if they didn’t play defense like this, their NBA contracts would be pulled,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich joked.

Of course, playing defense is hardly the hot trend in the modern NBA game. Scoring and pace were at an all-time high during the 2018-19 season, with the onus seemingly on filling the cylinder rather than getting a key stop on the defensive end.

However, defense has almost always been at the crux of Popovich’s Spurs teams. Former Spurs legends like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker frequently spoke about how often Popovich would rip into them for poor rotations or a perceived lack of defensive effort.

San Antonio’s 2014 championship team was comprised of defensive-minded players such as Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, amongst others.

Popovich has apparently installed that kind of hard-nosed mindset in Team USA, and the players have responded by clamping down on the competition.