There was a coaching clinic in Berlin back in 2014, when San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich paced along the sideline for a while and talked about his various philosophies and keys to basketball success.
It didn’t take him long to mention his disdain for the 3-point shot, which is no secret.
So imagine this irony: His Spurs, this season, are shooting the 3 as well as just about any team in league history.
Overlooked, perhaps, in their 30-7 start this season is this. The Spurs are connecting on 41.3 percent of their 3s – on pace to be the third-best success rate since the shot was added to the NBA game nearly four decades ago. Only the 1996-97 Charlotte Hornets (42.8 percent) and last season’s Golden State Warriors (41.6) shot it better than San Antonio has to this point.
”I hate it,” Popovich said that day in Berlin. ”It’s not real basketball.”
Ah, but it can be part of smart basketball, as the Spurs keep showing.
Houston has missed more 3s this season than the Spurs have taken – by a lot, too. Entering Sunday, only Chicago was averaging fewer 3-point attempts per game than San Antonio.
But the Spurs take good ones.
They’re making 45 percent of their corner 3s, 40 percent of ones taken from above the break. And the Spurs are on pace to be the first team in NBA history to shoot better than .400 from 3-point range and .800 from the foul line.
Kyle Korver has now been traded to the Cavaliers and Paul Millsap will likely be next to leave Atlanta. So if (or when) the Millsap deal happens, the entire starting lineup from the Hawks team that won 60 games just two seasons ago will be gone.
And amid all this change and rumor, the Hawks keep winning.
Atlanta plays at Brooklyn on Tuesday night. Should the Hawks win there, it would be seven straight victories for Atlanta – the longest streak by any team in the Eastern Conference so far this season.
It also would make the Hawks the first team this season to have both a seven-game winning streak and a seven-game losing streak. The Clippers came close, winning seven in a row once and later losing six straight.
THE WEEK AHEAD
A look at some of the games to watch this week:
– Oklahoma City at Chicago, Monday. Jimmy Butler’s last six games for the Bulls – 34.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 72 for 83 from the foul line.
– Boston at Toronto, Tuesday. Celtics have scored 100 or more in 11 straight games, one away from matching their longest such streak under Brad Stevens.
– Indiana vs. Denver in London, Thursday. The NBA hits London for the seventh time. A 3 p.m. weekday start for fans in Indiana, 1 p.m. for those in Denver.
– Memphis at Houston, Friday. Hard to find two coaches who have done better so far than the Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni and the Grizzlies’ David Fizdale.
– Minnesota at Dallas, Sunday. The Mavs moved up the start, so this game should end about the same time the Cowboys-Packers playoff game kicks off.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK
Jimmy Butler, Chicago. As if the 52 points, 12 rebounds and 21-for-22 show at the foul line wasn’t enough last Monday against Charlotte, gander at these: He had 17 points in a fourth-quarter span of 3 minutes, 53 seconds, and his 21 made free throws were more than the Hawks, Pistons, Pacers, Grizzlies, Heat and Magic all totaled in their first two games against the Hornets this season.