Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, has never been one to be shy about saying what’s on his mind, but he often saves his opinions for the press conferences he holds before and after games. When the Spurs were playing the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, he couldn’t wait and took the microphone in the middle of the game to ask Spurs fans to stop booing Kawhi Leonard.
When 3 minutes and six seconds left in the second quarter, Popovich moved over to the scorer’s table and took control of the public address system. Leonard was standing at the free-throw line at the time.
Popovich began by saying, “Excuse me for a second,” “Can we stop all the booing and let these guys play? It’s got no class; it’s not who we are. Knock off the booing.”
According to Andrew Lopez, who works for ESPN, Popovich’s appeals were unsuccessful. The boos continued to get louder as the Spurs fans continued to express their unhappiness with Leonard’s return to the city.
Leonard played for the Spurs for the first seven seasons of his career and was awarded Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals in 2014 after the Spurs won their most recent championship. But despite his achievements while playing for the team, including winning the Defensive Player of the Year title in 2015 and 2016, his unexplained departure has made him a pariah in San Antonio. This is especially true given that he won the honor back-to-back years.
Due to a quadriceps injury, he could only participate in nine games during the 2017–18 season, even though there was a debate between him and the team’s medical staff, which had given him clearance to play again. The following summer, Kawhi Leonard made a request to be traded, and the San Antonio Spurs ultimately agreed to send him and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a first-round pick that later turned into Keldon Johnson.
It was Leonard’s 14th game back in San Antonio, and he had been booed there on previous occasions; therefore, it is still being determined why Popovich thought enough was enough this time. There were a lot of confused looks from everyone in the arena, including from some of the players, and with good reason: none of us had ever witnessed anything in a match quite like that before.