San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, left, argues a call during the first quarter of Game 1 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Sunday, April 20, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN ANTONIO — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he looks forward to sideline reporter Craig Sager’s return and “I promise I’ll be nice.”
TNT’s Sager is missing the NBA playoffs as he undergoes treatment for leukemia. So his son, Craig Sager, Jr., filled in for Sunday’s broadcast of San Antonio’s playoff opener against Dallas, asking Popovich a few questions after the third quarter.
Popovich is famous for his terse answers to in-game questions from Sager and other sideline reporters. Sager even joked about it in a statement Friday confirming his diagnosis: “Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop.”
This time, Popovich was verbose by his standards in discussing the Spurs’ play. “Great questions from Craig JUNIOR,” he quipped at the end.
The younger Sager, a sports reporter in Atlanta, said he asked his father for suggestions but was told, “You’re on your own.”
“You did a great job,” Popovich said to him, “but I’d rather have your dad standing here.”
Popovich then shared this message for his father: “We miss you. You’ve been an important part of all of us for a long time, doing a great job. We want your fanny back on the court, and I promise I’ll be nice.”
The ponytailed Sager, Jr., 25, wore a sparkly orange tie from his father’s closet. A former football walk-on at Georgia, he later tweeted that he was supposed to do a taped interview with Popovich but the coach insisted on doing it live during the game. Popovich also gave him a hand-written letter to deliver to his father.