EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - By all reckoning, the San Antonio Spurs' decision to shift to a zone defense in games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals has been the turning point in the series, because the move has taken the New Jersey Nets out of their transition game.
But just because the Spurs have been playing zone doesn't mean they've been playing it well, or at least not by coach Gregg Popovich's reckoning.
"We've used it so little that it would be difficult to assess how useful it's been to us," Popovich said. "I mean, throughout the year, we might have used it once every 10 or 15 games for five or six, seven possessions in the game, and that's it. So, it's not something that we employ. We are a man-to-man team."
Employing a zone, apparently, is one thing for Popovich. Liking it is another story.
"Why are we using it? You know, I got that guy with me that used to be in college that's making me do it," said Popovich, referring to P.J. Carlesimo, Spurs assistant and former Seton Hall coach. "He knows [zone proponent and Syracuse coach Jim] Boeheim too well or something. I hate it. I think it's awful."
Scott on his mentor
If the Nets' Byron Scott has a coaching role model, it would be the Miami Heat's Pat Riley, who coached Scott to three NBA titles when both were with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s.
Like Riley, Scott is always nattily attired, rarely ruffled and constantly folds his arms during games.
"I talked to Riles before the series started, but I have not talked to him since then, and probably won't," Scott said. "The way this series is going and how many games you've got in between days, you're trying to prepare your team to get ready for the next game."
With the Houston Rockets' hiring of Jeff Van Gundy yesterday, the NBA coaching carousel has started to slow, with five openings left. Most of the recently filled positions and the ones that are still open appear to be slotted for once and current head coaches, and Scott, a former assistant in Sacramento, doesn't understand that trend.
"You try to figure out why some of the prominent assistants in this league are not getting their chances," Scott said. "And then the other question is, why are you recycling guys that were coaches somewhere else two or three years ago or last year or five years ago? It's a question I think we all ask each other."
New Jersey's lead assistant, Eddie Jordan, once head coach in Sacramento, is reportedly a candidate for jobs in Philadelphia and Washington, but Scott isn't holding out a lot of hope.
"I know he was up for jobs last year and decided not to take it," Scott said. "And I'm sure he'll be getting some calls this summer, also. It just depends. The owners can pick who they want. That's the bottom line, and they are going to take the guys they feel comfortable taking."