OAKLAND (AP) — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr anxiously waited for the lineups to be announced before a game against the San Antonio Spurs last week, knowing as well as anybody that it’s a pivotal preparation point when facing Gregg Popovich’s team.
It can be a guessing game who Popovich plays; he has set the bar when it comes to resting his veterans.
Many other coaches would like to follow his lead, but even for Popovich trying to manage players’ minutes and keep them fresh through the grind of the NBA’s 82-game regular season is a tricky task.
“It’s called the seat-of-my-pants science,” Popovich quipped.
The Spurs’ coach surprised more than a few people against the Warriors when he played veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker for the second straight night on the road — something he has rarely done the last few seasons despite public pressure and a hefty fine from the NBA to change his tactics.
Popovich kept everybody guessing again during the weekend when he played his regulars on back-to-back nights against the Lakers and Kings.
Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose received widespread criticism when he said his decision to sit out games is partially based on ensuring he has a healthy life after his basketball career. The 2011NBA MVP, who has missed most of the last two years with knee injuries, has sprained both ankles and been bothered by a sore left hamstring in the last month.
But the Bulls are not the first team to take a cautionary approach with its top player.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett and Washington’s Paul Pierce are among the game’s top players who have regularly received nights off in recent seasons.
How and when to rest is an imperfect practice.
Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio, said his mentor might be the only one in the league with enough clout to rest players as he pleases.
“As soon as I win five championships, I’m planning on employing that very liberally,” Kerr said, chuckling. “People can say whatever they want about me. I won’t care.”
Here are some things to watch this week:
THE KING VS. THE CHAMPS: On Wednesday night in Cleveland, LeBron James gets his first crack at the Spurs since San Antonio dismantled Miami in the Finals and he returned to the Cavaliers. Cleveland enters the week on a four-game winning streak.
GOOD WITH THE BAD: Kobe Bryant set the record for the most missed shots in NBA history, surpassing John Havlicek’s mark of 13,417 missed field goals. Of course, some of the worst records in sports belong to the best. Reggie Jackson struck out 2,597 times, more than any player in Major League Baseball history. Brett Favre holds the NFL record for most interceptions at 336, and Martin Brodeur gave up more goals (2,764) than any goalie in NHL history.
DOMINANT DAVIS: Anthony Davis has stayed healthy and lived up to the hype in his third season. The 21-year-old Pelicans big man has recorded at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in three games already, the most any player has had in a season since Dwight Howard had three in 2009-10 with Orlando. Davis gets another shot at his fourth Tuesday at Sacramento.
SACRAMENTO’S SLIDE: The Kings (6-4) had been one of the league’s biggest surprises, but three consecutive losses began to cast doubt about whether this could be a big year for DeMarcus Cousins and Co. That included blowing leads of 26 and 24 points in losses at Memphis and Dallas, respectively, before upsetting San Antonio on Saturday night. The next two weeks will reveal a lot about Sacramento’s standing. The Kings host New Orleans and Chicago before beginning a four-game road trip at Minnesota, New Orleans, Houston and San Antonio.
FALLING FAVORITES: Some teams expected to compete for playoff spots — and maybe conference and league titles — are off to horrendous starts. Oklahoma City is struggling to find its way with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook injured. Same goes for Indiana with Paul George sidelined. The New York Knicks’ 2-8 start tied the second-worst start in franchise history through 10 games. Denver lost six in a row before beating Indiana on Friday.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Carmelo Anthony’s teams are 6-7 when he scores at least 45 points. The latest loss was Friday night, a 102-100 overtime setback against the Jazz. Anthony had 46 points to lead the Knicks and was 16 for 26 from the field.