SAN ANTONIO — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he looks forward to sideline reporter Craig Sager’s return and “I promise I’ll be nice.”
TNT’s Sager is missing the NBA playoffs as he undergoes treatment for leukemia. So his son, Craig Sager Jr., filled in for Sunday’s broadcast of San Antonio’s playoff opener against Dallas, asking Popovich a few questions after the third quarter.
Popovich is famous for his terse answers to in-game questions from Sager and other sideline reporters. Sager even joked about it in a statement Friday confirming his diagnosis: “Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop.”
This time, Popovich was verbose by his standards in discussing the Spurs’ play. “Great questions from Craig JUNIOR,” he quipped at the end.
The younger Sager, a sports reporter in Atlanta, said he asked his father for suggestions but was told, “You’re on your own.”
“You did a great job,” Popovich said to him, “but I’d rather have your dad standing here.”
Popovich then shared this message for his father: “We miss you. You’ve been an important part of all of us for a long time, doing a great job. We want your fanny back on the court, and I promise I’ll be nice.”
The ponytailed Sager Jr., 25, wore a sparkly orange tie from his father’s closet. A former football walk-on at Georgia, he later tweeted that his dad didn’t know about the trip to San Antonio until host Ernie Johnson mentioned it on air at tip-off.
The younger Sager was supposed to tape an interview with Popovich, but the coach insisted on doing it live during the game. Popovich also gave him a hand-written letter to deliver to his father.