Gregg Popovich surprised Robert Sarver wasn’t in ‘chicken suit’

Jun 12, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich speaks during a press conference after game four of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. San Antonio defeated Miami 86-107. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Suns owner Robert Sarver indirectly criticized the San Antonio Spurs for keeping five rotation players and their coach at home during a Thursday preseason game in Phoenix. Sarver’s mic-grabbing apology to Suns fans and offer to send them a refund for watching a game they didn’t pay to see wasn’t lost back in San Antonio.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich responded to Sarver’s comments on Saturday, and he did so quite directly.

Without further ado (via the San Antonio Express-News):

“As I said, the silliness begins,” Popovich said. “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.

“We had five guys we didn’t send. Patty Mills had a shoulder operation over the summer. Tiago Splitter (calf) has been out the whole preseason. Kawhi Leonard (eye infection) 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.

“The only thing that surprises me is that he didn’t say it in a chicken suit. I’ll just leave it at that.”

The chicken suit reference of course stems from Sarver’s chicken-like flapping of the arms at a Spurs-Suns game several years ago, a game where San Antonio also rested its best players.

Thankfully, Dane Carbaugh of Sporting News was kind enough to offer up a visual of Robert Sarver in a chicken suit.

On Thursday, Sarver went on the PA system in the fourth quarter to offer fans a gift from the Suns if they sent him a ticket stub.

“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 got a gift for you on behalf of the Suns for showing up tonight.”

[RELATED: Popovich ‘coveted’ Jeff Hornacek]

The moment came across innocently enough — it didn’t register in my head as anything but a marketing ploy for a minute. Quickly, it became the story of just another preseason game.If it backfired from a media perspective or made Sarver look bad, so what? These are the things that happen when owners get so involved in their team’s activities, and Suns fans surely aren’t complaining about the gifts they might receive.

There’s a great deal of entertainment value in this back-and-forth. And it adds to a relationship between two teams that have so much drama in the past decade.