SAN ANTONIO -- In his typical no-holds-barred fashion,San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver's critical comments as silly and said they should have been made while wearing a "chicken suit."
Sarver got on the public address microphone during Thursday night's exhibition game between the Spurs and Suns in Phoenix and apologized to the fans because the Spurs were without several players and Popovich himself.
"This is not the game you paid your hard-earned money to watch," Sarver told the crowd. "I apologize for it. And I want you to send me your tickets if you came tonight with a return envelope and I've got a gift for you on behalf of the Suns for showing up tonight. Thank you."
The reigning champion Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard (eye infection), Tiago Splitter (calf) and Patty Mills (rotator cuff) due to injury, and Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili remained home to rest. Popovich elected to have first-year assistant Ettore Messina handle head-coaching duties. Phoenix routed San Antonio 121-90 in the Spurs' first preseason game in the United States after a two-week trip to Europe.
In typical Popovich fashion, he was quick with a zinger.
"The only thing that surprises me is that he didn't say it in a chicken suit. I'll just leave it at that," Popovich said Saturday before San Antonio's preseason home opener against Miami, a 111-108 overtime loss.
"As I said, the silliness begins. Most wise individuals would check facts before they made statements; unless you're interested in putting on a show. In that case, the facts get in your way, as in this case."
The Spurs have a history of resting players during the season, including being fined $250,000 by the league in December 2012 for sending home Duncan, Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green rather than have them play in a nationally televised game in Miami against the Heat.
Popovich pointed out these recent absences were excusable, though.
"We had five guys we didn't send," Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News. "Patty Mills had a shoulder operation over the summer. Tiago Splitter has been out the whole preseason. Kawhi Leonard was out and is still out for 10 more days. The other two, Duncan and Ginobili, are two of the oldest guys in the league who just came back from a 13-day European trip."
Gregg Popovich jabs at Suns owner