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Spurs’ Popovich going to Duncan’s HOF induction, not coaching vs. Suns

Head coach Gregg Popovich talks to assistant coach Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 08, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Spurs 132-129. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will not be coaching the team Saturday against the Phoenix Suns. Instead, the long-time head coach will be going to the Hall of Fame induction for former Spurs big man Tim Duncan.

The Spurs have clinched 10th place in the standings and a position in the play-in tournament, meaning they have nothing to gain or lose from Saturday or Sunday’s games against Phoenix. In Popovich’s place as acting head coach will be assistant Mitch Johnson. Popovich is expected to return for the second meeting between the two teams on Sunday.

Suns head coach Monty Williams, who spent time with the Spurs and is close with Duncan, said he wished the timing could have worked out better for him to go as well. The ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. and the Suns’ game starts at 11 a.m.

“He and Tim are such a wonderful partnership and combination … I’m thankful and happy that he’s going,” Williams said. “I toyed with it myself. I was working it out in my mind how to rent a jet, which I’ve never done before, so I can get up there and hug Tim and come right back because I’m happy for him, I’m happy for Pop.”

Williams played with Duncan for the 1997-98 season before being back with the Spurs as a coaching intern for one year in 2005 and another as vice president of basketball operations in 2016.

“He’s meant so much to me, one of my best friends and I’ve been able to live vicariously through him for some of the highs of his career,” Williams said. “I’ve been able to watch him and I’m just as happy when he achieves something or has something cool going on.”

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