Tim Duncan was back in charge in San Antonio and the Spurs were flourishing under his leadership again — but not without some confusion.
CJ McCollum scored 32 points and the Trail Blazers beat the Spurs 121-116 on Saturday night in San Antonio to spoil Duncan’s first shot at coaching, 13 games into his first season on the bench, following Gregg Popovich’s ejection.
Popovich’s exit sparked social media to assume Becky Hammon, who is in her sixth season as a Spurs assistant and listed after Popovich on the team’s website, would become acting coach and the first woman to lead an NBA team. Even NBC Sports’ official Twitter account tweeted “Becky Hammon running the Spurs bench after Gregg Popovich gets ejected.” Others, such as SB Nation’s account, said Hammon “will now serve as head coach.”
That wasn’t the case.
Popovich was asked if he considered having Hammon take over to make history as the first woman to lead an NBA team.
“I’m not here to make history,” Popovich said.
Instead Duncan, Hammon and Will Hardy coached by committee, but it was Duncan calling the plays and screaming out instruction.
“It was cool,” Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said. “It didn’t really feel like a huge difference. I think he did a good job. He took control. He helped lead us to a big lead.”
Popovich was ejected after walking onto the court to berate official Jason Goldenberg over a non-call. Popovich calmly walked off the court following his first ejection of the season.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 13 rebounds but the Spurs lost their fifth straight and fell to 5-8.
Damian Lillard added 22 points and Hassan Whiteside had 21 points for Portland (5-8), which rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to snap a four-game skid in San Antonio.
“We’ve blown leads before, so we kind of know what to expect,” McCollum said. “Once you do it, you’ve got to stay grounded, focus on the little stuff.”
Before the game, Popovich said coaching could only go so far and it was up to each player to take responsibility for his own mistakes and performance during this losing streak. Popovich put that responsibility squarely on the Spurs when he was ejected early in the third quarter. — with AP
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