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SPUR NOTES

Young Players Learn Hard Way

May 14, 2003|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — If the Spurs could have held every 16-point lead they've held in this series, it would be over.

On the other hand, Coach Gregg Popovich thinks it's just part of the educational process.

"I've been thinking about that a lot," he said after Game 4, when they blew a 16-point lead, but before Game 5, when they would lose 23 points of a 25-point lead but held on to win.

"I just have to believe some of the young guys, no matter how much you tell them or talk to them, at this level [they] don't really understand how you have to sustain the mental toughness, play by play by play, quarter by quarter, night after night, and if you blink, you get burned. You don't get burned like that in the regular season.

"I think we had some of that satisfaction, probably seeped into at least three guys on the team [Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili] who didn't really understand that sort of intangible."

After the last two games, they understand it better than they did, anyway.

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So did Laker Coach Phil Jackson really undergo an angioplasty Saturday or was this just a brilliant motivational ploy?

The question was tossed at Popovich before Game 5 in the hopes of eliciting a quotable response and he didn't disappoint.

"Phil Jackson is pretty brilliant," he said. "He's innovative and I would have to give him an A-plus for creativity. But I'm going to go ahead and say maybe this was real."

So real, said Popovich, that "I'm going to be having wine and something real greasy after the game."

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Jackson got as much sympathy as expected from an opposing crowd. One fan held a sign that read, "Phil, whining about the refs is bad for your heart."

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Popovich tells his players they can't crowd Kobe Bryant on defense if they want to avoid foul trouble. And, he said facetiously, he has a standard of measurement.

"I tell [his players]," he said "that there is a glow around Kobe that you have to respect. Afterward, check your hands and body. If you have a rash, that tells you that you didn't play the right kind of defense."

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The Lakers are 0-5 this season at the Spurs' new home, the SBC Center.

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Staff Writer Steve Springer and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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