Gregg Popovich is known for being surly with the media, but he’s also known for being sarcastic and brutally honest when he does decide to engage in responding to a reporter’s legitimate question.
In Los Angeles on Friday to take on the Lakers, Popovich was asked about Kawhi Leonard’s defense in comparison to that of Bruce Bowen, a specialist in that area who played in San Antonio from 2001-09 and was a part of three different championship teams.
This opened the door for one of Pop’s more painfully sincere assessments.
From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:
Gregg Popovich had a pretty good zinger for Mr. Bowtie when a reporter compared Kawhi Leonard to Bruce Bowen …
Reporter: “He’s kind of different than Bowen …”
Popovich: “He’s a lot better than Bruce Bowen. Bruce Bowen couldn’t dribble and couldn’t pass. He shot 3s in the corner and he played good D, he played great D. So we want Kawhi to match Bruce’s great D first and foremost, but after that he’s a much better offensive player.”
Bowen was all defense, al the time in his prime years — essentially like Shane Battier, but more actually deserving of the lock-down defender reputation.
Popovich has a fantastic sense of humor, but isn’t in the business of taking unsolicited shots at one of his more tenured former players. Instead, the response that ultimately disparaged Bowen’s skill set was an appropriate one given how much better of an all-around player Leonard is shaping up to be, on both ends of the floor.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.