GREGG Popovich called Spurs’ fans booing of Kawhi Leonard “hateful” and “mean-spirited,” and the San Antonio coach has no regrets taking the microphone and imploring the home crowd to knock it off.
“Absolutely not,” Popovich said Friday night (Saturday morning, Nov. 25, 2023 PH time) before the Spurs played the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s pretty easy to understand. I listened to it for a while and it just got louder and louder and uglier and uglier, and I felt sorry for him, and I was embarrassed for our city, for our organization.
“Because that’s not who we are, that’s not how we’ve conducted ourselves for the last 25 years. It’s the opposite of the way we’ve conducted ourselves, the way we’ve worked in the community.”
While Popovich considered it a “one-off” with the fans’ behavior and credited them for their years of support, he still found it extremely disrespectful to treat former Spurs All-Star Leonard, now with the Clippers, that way in his return to Frost Bank Center.
Late in the first half of Wednesday’s 109-102 loss, Popovich took the mic and told the crowd to stop the booing. San Antonio lost its 10th straight game.
“It’s kind of an indication of the world we live in today. It was hateful,” Popovich said. “It was really disrespectful, it was just mean-spirited. We’re the team that when somebody comes back to town after having been a Spur, so when you first come back to town, we show a video of them. I can remember when Kawhi and Danny Green came back from Toronto, we showed videos of those guys and the crowd didn’t react like that. That tells the whole story, and now it’s five years later, six years later, and that’s
going to happen.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr talks to his players about some booing coming with the territory as a professional athlete, but that can cross the line, and it’s certainly not expected when it’s a player who has meant so much to a franchise. Kevin Durant, a two-time NBA Finals MVP with the Warriors, was welcomed with a warm ovation when he finally faced Golden State for the first time in front of fans on opening night last month with Phoenix since departing after the 2018-19 season.
Popovich noted that the amount of hate currently in the world makes the fans’ behavior even more disgraceful — not to mention serving to fuel Leonard’s play, too.
“I think it’s indicative of the way the world works now. There’s enough hate in the world where I think that’s totally inappropriate. It’s not what you would teach your kids to do,” Popovich said. “... So it doesn’t make any sense, it’s unwise, so on every level, I have no regrets whatsoever.”