GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Count Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd among Gregg Popovich’s biggest fans.
Both Knicks said they applauded Popovich’s decision to let four of his top five scorers miss Thursday night’s San Antonio Spurs game at Miami, won by the Heat, 105-100.
“I thought it was great,” Kidd said Friday at shootaround prior to the Knicks 108-87 victory over the hapless Washington Wizards.
“That’s his team. He’s the coach of that team. He has every right to do what he feels right for the team. It’s an older team.”
Kidd said he and several teammates did “the same thing” when he was with the Dallas Mavericks, and it helped Dallas win the NBA championship in 2011.
“We took a week off before the playoffs, before we made the run and it helped us win the championship,” Kidd said. “So I think Pop has every right.”
He added: “It’s a long journey and the thing is to try to be the last team standing. And Pop has the hardware to show that it has worked for them. He has a great pulse on that team. They’ve been together for a long team, so I think he has every to do what he did.”
Anthony also loved Popovich’s decision.
“It was funny to me,” Anthony said. “I’m from the Western Conference so I know Pop and Pop does that all the time. There was a time he was fighting for a playoff spot and he sat all of them down. So it happens, but that’s between him and David Stern.”
Stern was enraged by the decision and prompted “substantial sanctions” aimed at the Spurs.
Asked if he would skip next Thursday’s game in Miami the way the Spurs stars did, Anthony smiled and said, “I’m pretty sure…I won’t miss that game.”
The Knicks are the NBA’s oldest team, but coach Mike Woodson isn’t likely to do anything similar with his players.
“Absolutely not, no comment,” Woodson said.
Asked if he understood the logic, Woodson said, “I can’t question nothing. Pop has had a helluva career and that’s his team. They do what they gotta do over there. I gotta worry about what we’re doing here in New York.”
KIDD, STOUDEMIRE UPDATES
Kidd has missed two games with back spasms but is targeting a return for next week’s three-game road trip beginning Wednesday in Charlotte.
“I hope so,’’ Kidd said. “That’s the plan — to get me back out there sometime next week. I feel great. A lot better as the week’s gone on. That’s the goal is to be 100 percent when you come back. No need to rush. Today was a great day working out. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”
Kidd said an MRI on his back revealed “nothing.” He is expected to miss tonight’s game and Sunday’s against the Phoenix Suns at MSG. Woodson said he would start Kurt Thomas tonight in Kidd’s place.
“He’ll be back in the next couple days,” Anthony said. “I’m pretty sure he will be. I don’t think it’s anything too serious.”
Kidd said he was disappointed to miss Monday’s historic game against his old team, the Nets, in Brooklyn, a game the Nets won in OT.
“It was tough because the guys played well,” he said. “We had an opportunity to win the game on the road. It was tough to watch. But it was a lesson learned from everybody.’’
As for Amar’e Stoudemire, who has not played this season with a ruptured left popliteal cyst, he ran on the court and did some other stretches Thursday.
He is expected back sometime around Christmas.
“I know 6-8 weeks was dangling out there,” Woodson said. “We’re going to accept Amar’e back when he’s ready to go. When that is, I don’t know. I really don’t.”
Asked if it was a good sign that Stoudemire was running, Woodson said, “That’s a great sign, he’s out running and he’s shooting a little bit. So we’re just going to gauge it as he goes along and the doctors and Amar’e will tell us when he’s ready.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.