NBA

Popovich stands by rebuke of Spurs fans over 'hateful' Leonard boos

By Sports Desk November 25, 2023

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stands by his decision to criticise the team's fans over their booing of former franchise favourite Kawhi Leonard, describing their behaviour as "hateful".

Popovich made headlines on Wednesday when he walked over to the scorer's table and grabbed a microphone during the second quarter of the Spurs' 109-102 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

With San Antonio's fans loudly jeering their former star Leonard as he lined up a pair of free throws, his former coach Popovich leapt to his defence. 

"Excuse me for a second," Popovich said to the crowd. "Can we stop all the booing and let these guys play? Have a little class. That's not who we are. Knock off the booing."

Popovich later said the boos had risked giving Leonard – who won the NBA Championship with the Spurs in 2014 before departing four years later – additional motivation.

Asked if he regretted the remarks ahead of Friday's game against the Golden State Warriors, Popovich said: "Absolutely not. 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.

"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.

"It's kind of an indication of the world we live in today. It was hateful. 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, 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." 

The Spurs failed to end their dismal run of form on Friday, seeing their losing streak extend to 11 games as Stephen Curry's 35 points helped the Warriors to a 118-112 win in the In-Season Tournament game at Chase Center.

Curry also matched his season-high tally of seven three-pointers and added six assists, while guard Gary Payton II won plaudits for a terrific leaping block on Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama.

Number one draft pick Wembanyama had 22 points and eight rebounds but only made one of six three-point attempts as San Antonio's miserable run continued. 

They continue to prop up the Western Conference at 3-13 and are 0-4 in the group stage of the In-Season Tournament ahead of Sunday's difficult road game against the Denver Nuggets. 

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