Popovich had reservations, but Spurs coach ready for restart

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FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2019, file photo, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with the media during NBA basketball media day in San Antonio. Freshmen at the United States Air Force Academy are called doolies, and the experience for those first-year cadets can be extremely difficult. Popovich, class of 1970, hasnt forgotten those days. And for the San Antonio coach, a couple days of lockdown at Walt Disney World brought back the memories of doolie life. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Gregg Popovich fondly remembers his freshman year at the United States Air Force Academy, even though as a first-year cadet he was extremely limited in where he could go and what activities were allowed.

Lockdown at Walt Disney World, he said, reminded him of those days.

“But two days, anybody can do that,” the San Antonio coach said Saturday.

He made it through that freshman year with ease, made it through the two days of in-room Disney quarantine as well, and now the longest-tenured and oldest active coach in the league is free to roam within the NBA bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have reservations about being part of the NBA restart, given the ongoing issues of racial strife, social inequality and the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you’re thinking person, you’re going to look at all sides of a situation,” Popovich said. “And, especially being 71 years old, I thought, ‘Is this where I want to spend a lot of my time, doing this, under these circumstances?’”

The answer was yes, and Popovich was running his first practice in more than four months Saturday as the Spurs began getting ready for a playoff push. When the season resumes July 30, San Antonio will be 12th in the Western Conference — only a half-game from ninth, where the Spurs would have to be and within four games of the No. 8 spot to force their way into a play-in series.

“I honestly do believe — it’s not just being a loyal soldier of the NBA, I’ve done my share of criticizing here and there when I thought it was necessary — I don’t know where else you would be as safe as we are right now," Popovich said.

LeBron James completely agrees with that sentiment.