Kawhi Leonard will return to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Thursday night for the first time since being traded to the Toronto Raptors. Even though the freshness of Leonard forcing his way out of San Antonio is prominent in the minds of the fans, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich says he hopes the fans will be able to brush that aside.
“I don’t speak for other people but I hope we treat everybody with kindness and respect,” Popovich said Wednesday, via News4SanAntonio. “We always have in the past.”
Leonard gave the Spurs six great seasons before beginning to check out on them last season. The fans can choose to remember that and welcome Leonard accordingly, or they can choose to still feel upset over Leonard deciding he didn’t want to play for the team anymore and leaving them. If they still need more time to get over that, that would be understandable, but over time he should receive cheers from the fans.
DeMar DeRozan has only played about half of an NBA season under Gregg Popovich, but the four-time All-Star already seems quite familiar with how the San Antonio Spurs coach operates.
The Spurs got off to a sluggish start in their game against the Boston Celtics on Monday night, scoring just 17 points in the first quarter and trailing 52-46 heading into the half. They then matched their entire first half production by exploding for 46 points in the third quarter en route to an eventual 120-111 victory. When asked what changed from the first half to the second, DeRozan had a very simple explanation.
Demar DeRozan on what changed in the 2nd Half vs The Celtics "We got cussed out by Pop" pic.twitter.com/DzCOQvF4wQ
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) January 1, 2019
“We got cussed out by Pop,” DeRozan told reporters with a straight face after the game. “Us not being aggressive, going out there real tentative, we had to change that.”
It was pretty obvious that Popovich and DeRozan have a strong relationship with the way Pop trolled DeRozan over his defensive play early in the season, so the latest comments aren’t really a surprise. Like many others before him, DeRozan clearly has a great deal of respect for his five-time NBA champion coach.
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Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen, under siege from his players, has leaned on mentor Gregg Popovich for support.
Boylen served as an assistant under Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs from 2013 to 2015 and has clearly used him as a coaching influence. The two apparently still speak, as Boylen said Popovich has privately offered him support as he clashes with his players.
Jim Boylen said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has reached out to him recently to offer support: "It means the world. He’s arguably one of the two or three best coaches of all-time that I have a relationship with and that cares about me. And I care about him."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 14, 2018
Boylen has actually used some of the tactics Popovich has used on his Bulls players. That has clearly backfired, and Boylen was told he has a long way to go before he can consider himself in the same league as the Spurs’ coach. Regardless, Popovich is apparently supporting him, for whatever it’s worth.
Kawhi Leonard responded on Sunday to some shade from his former head coach.
Gregg Popovich said Saturday that Leonard was not a leader when he was a part of the San Antonio Spurs.
Gregg Popovich was asked about Patty Mills' role as a leader this season, given the offseason losses of longtime Spurs like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. His answer: pic.twitter.com/NQRAZfeX9t
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) November 25, 2018
“Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn’t a leader,” Pop said of Leonard, who played seven seasons with the Spurs.
Leonard is now with the Toronto Raptors after forcing a trade. He had 29 points and 10 rebounds in the Raptors’ win on Sunday that made them 17-4. Leonard called Pop’s comments “funny” and said the coach may have been talking about last season, when Leonard only played in nine games.
Kawhi on Pop's comments: "It's just funny to me. I don't know if he's talking about last year or not. I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead… It doesn't matter. I'm here with the Raptors and I'm focused on the season and not what's going on on the other side." https://t.co/rhbJZL7tvA
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 26, 2018
Whether or not Popovich was talking about last season, when Leonard missed most of the games due to injury, the comments have to sting Leonard. He probably can still be happy though that he’s in a better place with a team atop the Eastern Conference standings.
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Defense is not exactly known as DeMar DeRozan’s strong suit, but Gregg Popovich may be on a mission to change that this season.
Speaking with the media earlier in the week, the San Antonio Spurs coach trolled his new shooting guard with a funny comment about his defensive play. A reporter told Popovich that DeRozan had said that he was looking forward to getting easier shots now that he was a member of the Spurs.
“I don’t why he said that because we’re only going to play him on the defensive end,” Popovich replied. “We’re not throwing him the ball. I forgot to tell him that. You guys can go ahead and tell him so he knows.”
DeRozan, who was acquired by the Spurs from the Toronto Raptors in July as part of the Kawhi Leonard trade, is a four-time All-Star and has scored 20 or more points per game in each of the last five seasons. He has been known as a defensive minus for much of his nine-year NBA career though.
It’s safe to say that DeRozan probably won’t mind the friendly jab however, as he has held his new head coach Popovich in high regard for many years now.
H/T NBA Reddit
The San Antonio Spurs are not going to let Kawhi Leonard dictate his way out of town without at least putting up a fight. In fact, one report says Gregg Popovich met with Kawhi Leonard on Tuesday, two days before the NBA Draft.
Yahoo’s Shams Charania reported the information, saying the two met in San Diego (Leonard attended San Diego State for college).
Spurs' Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich met on Tuesday in San Diego, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 20, 2018
Despite all the talk about Leonard wanting out, he is actually under contract for the upcoming season at just over $20 million. He has a player option for the following season which he would decline to become a free agent.
His situation heated up on Friday following a report saying that he wants out of San Antonio after a season full of drama. Leonard has not done much talking, but instead it appears to be his representatives controlling the situation.
Would the Spurs want to keep a disgruntled player around next season based on all the drama they endured last season? Probably not, so they would likely consider trades, although they reportedly have no desire to help out their competitors.
Gregg Popovich is mourning a tragic family loss this week, and as expected he not going to coach the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the opening round of the playoffs.
The Spurs have announced that assistant coach Ettore Messina will take over head coaching duties against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.
Spurs say Ettore Messina will coach Game 3 tonight against the Warriors. Gregg Popovich is out following the death of his wife, Erin, yesterday.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 19, 2018
Popovich’s wife, Erin, passed away on Wednesday. ESPN reported that she had been ill over an extended period of time. Several prominent members of the NBA community have offered their support for Pop during what must be an incredibly difficult time.
The Spurs will be home on Thursday night in an 0-2 series hole against the Warriors.
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