Spurs’ Gregg Popovich says MSG is ‘best place to play in the world’

Spurs’ Gregg Popovich says MSG is ‘best place to play in the world’

Madison Square Garden isn’t nicknamed The World’s Most Famous Arena out of pure ego.

Ahead of tipoff between the Knicks and San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, Hall of Fame-bound head coach Gregg Popovich co-signed the moniker given to New York’s home arena.

“It’s the place to play in the world. I actually mentioned it [to our team] when we came to shootaround,” Popovich said pregame on Wednesday. “I walked by [a few] guys over here and said: ‘You guys are in the best arena to play basketball you’ll ever be in.’

“Some of the guys agreed, other guys, said, ‘Oh, what about such and such?’ Had to look at the rafters, and of course some of the young guys they don’t know some of those names, for sure. But it’s a special place.”

Popovich then explained why The Garden is the best arena in basketball.

“‘Cause it is. Some things, words don’t describe it,” he said. “You just walk in there, the lights go on, and it’s a different ball game. You get a little bit of electricity going through your back.”

While opposing teams and players get excited to play at The Garden, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said every game counts the same in the win-loss column.

The Knicks hosted James Harden in his Los Angeles Clippers debut, then drew a massive crowd for the Victor Wembanyama sighting on Wednesday.

Thibodeau is unmoved by the names on the docket.

“They all count the same. That’s I think the beauty of this league. There’s so many great players and there’s always young great players coming in, too, so that’s what makes it so challenging,” he said. “If you’re a competitor you love that. I think the league’s in a great place because the game has grown so much. The global impact, the international players, the skillset of the players, what the centers are doing now. The game overall is in a great place. The games are exciting. It’s amazing what these players are doing.”

THIBS ON SECOND CHALLENGE

Thibodeau said the NBA’s new addition of a second coach’s challenge for teams that win the first makes for more strategic decision-making of when to use it.

“I think that getting that second one, you’re probably— there was a tendency to lean more to wait, keep one for the end of the game,” he said. “You look at using it earlier, knowing that if you win it you’ve got another one you can use late. It’s good, been good so far.”

SUPER WEMBY?

LeBron James wanted to be the face of the league. Tim Duncan, Popovich’s former franchise cornerstone, preferred life away from the spotlight.

Where does Wembanyama fall on the superstar spectrum?

“I think, just speculating, he’s in between the two,” Popovich said. “I don’t see him in love with it. Or running away from it.”

BENCH DUTY

Josh Hart has been first off the bench for the Knicks and is playing more minutes than Quickley, who finished last season as Sixth Man of the Year runner-up.

Thibodeau said it’s a non-story.

“I like our depth, so to me, I don’t get wrapped up in that,” he said. “It’s just the way it is.”

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