San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich isn’t happy about the way Kawhi Leonard suffered his latest injury.
In a post-practice interview, Popovich said that Pachulia’s move, where he seemingly shuffled forward in order to get a foot under Leonard’s landing area, was, “not appropriate,” in addition to “dangerous” and “unsportsmanlike.” He also said that Pachulia has a “history” of rough play, citing instances from last season when Pachulia was with the Dallas Mavericks.
He labeled Zaza Pachulia’s stepping under Kawhi Leonard in game one of the Western Conference finals as dangerous, dirty, inappropriate and even compared it to manslaughter.
“Who gives a damn what his intent was?”
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) May 15, 2017
This is where the Spurs are now in a playoff season of injuries that has gone from bad to worse to trying to find a few family heirlooms while sifting through the ashes.
Popovich made the requisite lineup changes and adjustments when Tony Parker was lost to a torn quadriceps tendon in game two of the previous round against the Rockets. He pulled all the right strings and levers without Leonard in game six at Houston to engineer a stunning, series-clinching 39-point rout.
Now Leonard’s left ankle is injured again. The Spurs blew a 23-point lead without their best player and MVP candidate in the last 20 minutes of the opener against the Golden State juggernaut and maybe all that’s left to do is the very loud shouting.
Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated added a transcript of the rant, including the tough chances the team has going forward:
Gregg Popovich goes off on Zaza Pachulia's "dangerous, unsportsmanlike… totally unnatural closeout" on Kawhi Leonard & cites his "history" pic.twitter.com/mfEtWNfGJ6
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 15, 2017
The Spurs were up 78-55 early in the third quarter before Leonard left the game with an ankle injury. The Warriors ended up pulling out a 113-111 Game 1 victory.
Leonard was already coming off an injury that forced him to miss the clinching game of the second round against the Houston Rockets. However, he appeared to be at full strength Sunday with 26 points in just 24 minutes of action.
He first appear to re-injure himself while landing on a teammate on the bench. A few minutes later, Pachulia stepped under him on a jump shot, causing the larger injury that will now keep him off the court.
Per Michael Lee of The Vertical, Leonard said after the game he didn’t think the play was intentional, noting Pachulia was just “contesting the shot.” However, it’s clear his coach disagrees with this sentiment.