Gregg Popovich struck a different tone while announcing Leonard’s ankle injury would keep him from Spurs-Warriors Game 2.
Michael C. Wright of ESPN:
Come on, man. How much more difficult is it? How would it be if Curry didn’t play? How much more difficult would that be? I’m not a happy camper, but that’s a silly question.
A two-step, lead-with-your-foot closeout is not appropriate. It’s dangerous. It’s unsportsmanlike. It’s just not what anybody does to anybody else.
And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action. You can go back and look in Dallas games were he got a flagrant two for elbowing Patty Mills, the play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas and could have broken his arm. Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas and he and David got into it.
And then think about the history he’s had and what that means to a team, what happened last night –- a totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to it. And Kawhi is not there. And you want to know how we feel about it. You want to know if that lessens our chances or not.
We’re playing very possibly the best team in the league. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the East. And nine point seven five people out of 10 would figure the Warriors will beat the Spurs. Well, we’ve had a pretty damn good season. We’ve played fairly well in the playoffs. I think we’re getting better, and we’re up 23 points in the third quarter against Golden State, and Kawhi goes down like that. And you want to know if your chances are less and you want to know how we feel. That’s how we feel.
Follow-up? That pretty much cover it?
This is crap. Because he’s got this history, it can’t just be, “Oh, it was inadvertent. He didn’t have intent.” Who gives a damn about what his intent was? You ever hear of manslaughter? You still go to jail I think when you’re texting and you end up killing somebody, but you might not have intended to do that – all I care is what I saw. All I care is what happened. And the history there exacerbates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry. But I’m still open to follow-ups.
Nobody wants to do anything that would put anybody else in danger for a game or for a career. This guy’s history is different.
A big follow-up: How do you justify this attitude after coaching Bruce Bowen, who made a habit of sliding under shooters?
Popovich is right now, though. Pachulia crossed the line with a dirty play, and it could swing the title. Popovich’s outrage might suggest Leonard will miss more than Game 2, but even that would be enough to justify this response. The margins are so narrow this time of year, and Leonard’s injury turned Game 1 and gives San Antonio barely any chance of winning Game 2.
I also don’t know Pachulia’s intent, but Popovich just made him the face of dirty play in the NBA.