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Another game, another reunion for Popovich

When the Spurs host the 76ers on Monday night, it will mark their second game in a row against a team coached by one of Gregg Popovich’s former assistants.

Jim Boylen, who worked for the Spurs from 2013-2015, guided the Bulls to a 98-93 come-from-behind win over the Spurs on Saturday night.

Philadelphia is coached by Brett Brown, who was a Spurs basketball operations staffer in 1998-99 before serving as the club’s director of player development from 2002-2007 and as an assistant coach from 2007-2013.

“We’ve had quite a few guys go through (here to other jobs), both managerially and basketball-wise or coaching-wise, but you have to be happy for people that move on to improve their situations and take on new jobs,” Popovich said. “It’s actually a thrill for us. We keep in touch with everybody because it’s fun. Wherever we go, there is always somebody in the film room, on the court or in management we are familiar with.

“It just makes it a huge family. We really enjoy it.”

But sometimes the reunions can be tough on Popovich’s former assistants, which was the case with Boylen on Saturday.

“You guys know how much respect I have for those people over there and how much love I have for them,” he told reporters after the game. “I don’t care who you are, it’s hard playing your friends.”

Popovich and Boylen shared a few words on the court after the game, which saw the Spurs blow a 21-point lead, before heading to their locker rooms.

“It was positive,” Boylen said of what Popovich told him. “He is a mentor. He cares for me and my family, and he has helped me grow as a coach and a man.”

Dreading emotional night: Spurs great Manu Ginobili told an Argentine newspaper last week he fears he will become overcome with emotion at his jersey retirement ceremony.

“Quite possibly, I will cry … I do not think I’ll have a good time because of the nerves,” Ginobili said told La Nacion. “It’s a huge honor, but my hands are sweating when I think of what I have to say.”

The Spurs are set to retire Ginobili’s iconic No. 20 on March 28, when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In his interview with La Nacion, Ginobili also talked about the many heartfelt messages he received after he announced his retirement in August and how his life is much less stressful now.

“What moved me the most were the messages from those close to me,” Ginobili said. “…I am not one to keep (memorabilia), but there were a couple of emails that I said, ‘I’m going to keep them.’ ”

Ginobili is enjoying a summer in Argentina, something he could never do during his 16 seasons with the Spurs.

“I appreciate the flexibility I have now because I never had it,” he said. “I really wanted to have time (to relax). I dreamed of going to bed at 10 o’clock at night and (waking up) at 7 o’clock in the morning refreshed. I wanted time. I wanted peace, not all the madness of the NBA.”

Doing it all: DeMar DeRozan has led the Spurs in scoring 19 times over the team’s first 30 games, but Dante Cunningham believes the four-time All-Star’s finest game might have been his five-point, nine-assist performance in last week’s 111-86 win over Phoenix.

“The thing is no one even knew he had five points that game,” Cunningham said. “He was still jumping around, you could still hear him, you could still see the smile on his face. It doesn’t matter. That’s the ultimate pro, the ultimate All-Star.”

DeRozan is on pace to become the first player in franchise history to average 20.0 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in a season. He enters Monday’s game averaging a team-best 23.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.

David Robinson came close to doing it in 1993-94, when he averaged 29.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

Twitter: @tom_orsborn

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