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Old 01-29-13, 03:54 PM
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Pop returns, Duncan remains questionable

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was so happy to be back to work Tuesday following his lengthy illness that he didn’t even seem to mind speaking with the media.

Popovich missed three games, staying away from the team to avoid infecting his players. The Spurs were undefeated in his absence, with top assistant Mike Budenholzer manning the helm while Tony Parker, with Tim Duncan also sitting to nurse a sore left knee, played well enough to earn the Western Conference Player of the Week award.

“I was really happy for everybody,” he said. “They showed it’s about the system. It’s not about a player or a coach or anything like that. It’s about doing things right, being consistent. I thought they did a wonderful job.”

While the results were good, watching his team on TV was something Popovich struggled to get used to.

“It’s an out of body sort of experience,” he said. “It’s very strange. In other ways, it was real interesting. It was actually, in some ways, pretty educational.”

While Popovich will be back on the sideline for Wednesday’s home game against Charlotte, Duncan remains questionable. He participated in Tuesday’s practice, his first significant action since he initially bumped his knee at Philadelphia on Jan. 21.

“He’s improving a little bit every day, but he’s still, as of this morning, not where we want him to be,” Popovich said. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow. This is the first time he’s really gone up and down the court and tested it, so tomorrow morning will tell the tale.”


* Popovich took a playful shot at former player Sean Elliott, one of the NBA’s more, ahem, supportive color broadcasters.

“I definitely turned that off,” he teased. “You can handle that for a few seconds, and after that…”

Popovich also had no problem with Budenholzer’s hug with ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters, potentially ruining his hard-earned reputation as one of the league’s surliest interviews.

“Bud’s in charge of himself,” he said, smiling. “Everybody’s different.”

* Popovich provided his first public comments on Australian center Aron Baynes, who officially joined the team last week.

He said the Spurs brain trust, including general manager R.C. Buford and assistant Brett Brown, had been monitoring Baynes’ progress for several years before finally signing him midway through a stellar season in the Euroleague for Slovenia’s Union Olimpija.

“We’ve all seen him enough to think he adds to the overall edge and toughness of the group,”

Popovich said. “He’s a defender, pick-and-roll player, rebounder. He’s a tough nut, and we wanted to add that.”

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