When Dwyane Wade retires following the season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is going to be … sad.
“Sad is not a bad word,” Popovich said in advance of Sunday’s preseason game between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. “You miss those kinds of guys. They don’t have to be on your team. Dirk [Nowitzki] will probably retire soon. Watching him over the years, it’s just a wonderful experience to be able to be there. And we have front row seats to watch these guys. Sure, a little piece goes away. And it sort of reminds you that you’re going to take a little hike soon also. Nobody stays forever.”
But the memories remain.
Like the two Finals series in 2013 and 2014 between the Heat and Spurs. Or the 2004 Olympics, when Popovich served as an assistant coach and a 22-year-old Wade served as a player on Team USA.
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Popovich noticed Wade’s potential immediately.
“One never knows exactly what the limits are for each individual, but from the very beginning you could tell he was serious, he was competitive,” Popovich said thinking back to the 2004 Olympics. “He soaked things up and understood everything. Those were all good signs. You knew he was going to be something special.”
With Wade, 36, months away from retirement, the 69-year-old Popovich was asked if he’s surprised that he’s outlasted future NBA Hall of Famers like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Wade.
“I don’t have to use my legs the way they do,” Popovich said with a smile. “I have an advantage. I just sit there.”
Pop on Spo: When Popovich was asked about Erik Spoelstra’s growth as a head coach, he took advantage of the opportunity to compliment his counterpart.
“First of all, he did his work,” Popovich said. “He didn’t just pop up all of a sudden. He worked hard in the organization and learned the right way from coach (Pat) Riley. It was obvious he had not just basketball knowledge, that he knew about the game and he had his Os and Xs and knew what wins and loses. He was well schooled. But it’s way more than Os and Xs to be a successful coach.
“He develops great relationships with players. He knows how to walk the line between demanding discipline and letting them know he cares about them. To develop those relationships so there’s a player-coach trust is the whole key. I always feel like players have great B.S. antennae. If they don’t trust or they think you’re blowing smoke, it’s over quick. He’s the opposite of that. He’s one of the best.”
Injury report: The Heat held out Bam Adebayo (right AC joint sprain), Wayne Ellington (left ankle soreness), James Johnson (sports hernia surgery), Josh Richardson (left thigh contusion) and Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery) from Sunday’s preseason opener against the Spurs.
The injuries to Adebayo, Ellington and Richardson are believed to be minor.
“J-Rich is fine,” Spoelstra said before Sunday’s game. “There’s no point in trying to go through it today. It probably would have been a day off anyway, because he hadn’t missed a turn in camp. Bam hurt his shoulder trying to run through Hassan, going coast to coast [in Saturday’s scrimmage]. He’s pretty sore today. So hopefully it gets better each day.”
Waiters and Johnson continue to work their way back from surgery, but Johnson seems ahead of his teammate in the process. Johnson traveled with the Heat and went through a pregame workout on the court in San Antonio, while Waiters remained in Miami with assistant coach Anthony Carter.
“He’s hit all the steps in the last few weeks,” Spoelstra said of Johnson. “I didn’t see the workout. I just heard about it when he came in. He was thrilled about his progress. It’s been steady. It’s been all behind the scenes. But the last week or so, he’s been making a pretty big step forward.”