Kings coach Keith Smart is not shy about his admiration of what the San Antonio Spurs have built: a franchise consistently among the best in the NBA.
Smart's relationship with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dates to the 1980s, when Smart was being recruited out of Garden City (Kan.) Community College and Kansas was eyeing Smart as a prospect.
"(Popovich) was there with Larry Brown," Smart said. "And then I got cut by Golden State (in 1988) and got picked up by San Antonio, and he was there, too. So I've seen the great San Antonio now, but I was there when it wasn't so great."
Smart's time with the Spurs was uneventful he appeared in two games during the 1988-89 season but he said it's been enjoyable to watch how they have developed since then.
"I've watched them grow and eventually get the players that fit what they were trying to accomplish," Smart said. "(Popovich) kind of gives me the vision, and he's always been very, very kind to me, and I really got to know him through coach (Don) Nelson because they are really good friends."
The Spurs have the demeanor Smart wants from his team. They aren't flashy they just keep winning.
"None of those guys are drumbeaters," Smart said. "They believe in giving the next person credit for anything that happens before them as a whole. I just think it's their personality from the top on down. That's how they are."
Smart said Popovich has offered encouragement as he's worked as a head coach, noting Popovich has said experience will benefit the Kings if they continue to work hard.
But it takes time to build the kind of chemistry and mindset displayed by the Spurs. It also requires bringing in players who buy into the team concept.
"That was developed over time, and eventually you start having the players and you go and pick one or two guys that you want for your team that fit your personality trait," Smart said. "And that's what they've done."
Not sentimental Popovich was asked before the game if he'd thought about the possibility of Tuesday's contest being his last in Sacramento. That hadn't crossed his mind.
"I just came to play the game," he said.