Posted: Friday January 6, 2006 4:10PM; Updated: Friday January 6, 2006 6:26PM
On the longterm future of the Pistons:
"I like where we are. Usually the big guys play a little bit longer than the guards, and our big guys just turned 31 at the beginning of the season. You're seeing Shaq at 34-35, you're seeing Alonzo Mourning (at 36), so these guys are going to be around another three to four years before you say you've got to revamp big time. We're got a front line of guys that are going to play at a very high level for the next three to four years, and that always gives you a chance."
On Darko Milicic, the No. 2 pick of the 2003 draft, who is averaging just 6.2 minutes in 18 games:
"Darko will determine his ability to get on the floor for us. We don't have the luxury of putting him out there and saying, 'Oh, we'll just let him play through his mistakes for 15-20 minutes.' We're too good a team, and his mistakes are too high right now. Obviously he needs to be able to play through mistakes, but that's unfair to the other guys right now. Until he can get out there and play to the level of the other guys, his minutes will be few and far between."
On the prospects of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton making their All-Star debuts alongside mainstay Ben Wallace:
"I think all three of them should be. Here's the thing: If we as coaches and executives and media complain that selfishness and individual play is boring, and that we want guys who are unselfish and team-first -- well, here they are. Don't say it on one hand and then don't reward them on the other."
GREGG POPOVICH, Spurs coach:
On his team's 25-7 start, second only to the Pistons:
"That says more about the competition than it does about us. I don't think overall, top to bottom, the league is as competitive this year as it has been the last two to three years. That is more indicative of why our record is what it is. We've been playing inconsistently in the sense that we haven't been playing at the same level that we were at the end of last season. By comparison Detroit is playing the same as they were at the end of last season -- or better.
"We're not playing with that kind of fuel and purpose right now. We're playing well enough to be one of the better teams, but we've got room to improve, room to gear it up emotionally and physically, and I think I'm being relatively patient with waiting for all that to kick in. We're on pace to be a very good team if we continue to use the same philosophy of improving so that we're at our best come playoff time."
On the importance of the Spurs' upcoming rematch with the Pistons:
"It's a big game in the sense that I want to match their physicality and their aggressiveness and their purpose. I'll be very disappointed if I don't see that. If we win the game because we shot the hell out of it, I won't be that impressed, and if we lose the game because we didn't shoot well then that won't bother me. I wish the game was in February or March. We just played them, and now we're going to play them again. I'd rather play them down the road when Manu's back in the flow and Timmy [Duncan] feels a little bit better."