Earlier this week, after scoring a career-high 52 points, John Wall ripped his teammates for not giving enough effort and said at this level you should be able to just wake up and be ready to play hard.
After the Spurs loss to the Bulls on Thursday – breaking a 14 game regular season road win streak – Coach Gregg Popovich gave a similar speech about effort when he was asked if it was his job to get the players ready to play.
“I don’t remember playing tonight,” Popovich said. “I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to get ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. A doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.”
And the players who struggled with their job on this night were LaMarcus Aldridge (5-15 fg), Tony Parker (4-10 fg), Manu Ginobili (0-9 fg), Jonathon Simmons (1-7 fg). Kawhi Leonard had a game-high 24 points and Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 boards against his former team.
“We played 24 minutes again, as we have for about the last 10 games,” Popovich said. “We go through the motions in the first half. I think we shot one free throw in the first half. We shot four or so the second half. But we played harder in the second half. I don’t know if we played much smarter. Our opponents have outplayed us physically and execution-wise in most first halves for most of the season. So now we pull it together in the second half, and played harder and smarter and got it to [a] four [-point deficit]. That’s the disappointing part: We’re not a very consistent team, and we haven’t learned as a group that the game is 48 minutes. We also have some people playing very poorly. You have to participate in your own recovery. Some players have to play better.”
If the Spurs would have won, they would have become the first NBA franchise with a .500 road record.