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    The Spurs' Kawhi Leonard (2) tries to protect the ball as the Kings' Chuck Hayes reaches in. San Antonio showed why it has the NBA's best record (43-12) by coming up with big plays down the stretch.


    Jason Thompson dunks for two of his 11 points. The Kings were outrebounded 46-42, the 36th time this season they have been outrebounded.


    Mayor Kevin Johnson watches Tuesday's game from courtside at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings play their next five games on the road, where they are 5-23.


    DeMarcus Cousins reacts after missing a tip-in to end the first half. The Kings had six players score in double figures but shot only 37.8 percent from the floor.

Kings notes: Smart admires Spurs

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 - 12:36 pm

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.

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