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Gregg Popovich ‘Felt Sorry’ For Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard When Spurs Fans Booed Him

Gregg Popovich ‘Felt Sorry’ For Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard When Spurs Fans Booed Him
Adam WellsNovember 25, 2023

SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers talks to Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs after the game on November 22, 2023 at the Frost Bank Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich addressed his decision to speak on an arena microphone to fans who were booing Kawhi Leonard during Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Popovich explained he “felt sorry for” Leonard getting booed by Spurs fans:.

“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.”

The incident occurred late in the second quarter when Leonard was at the free-throw line and jeers from the crowd directed at the five-time All-Star were getting louder.

Bally Sports San Antonio @BallySportsSA

Coach Pop is not a fan of the booing. @spurs | #PorVida | 📺:BSSW pic.twitter.com/nU5Msi7RQc

Spurs fans can be forgiven if they have complicated feelings toward Leonard. His final season in San Antonio was very strange, to say the least.

Leonard played in nine games during the 2017-18 campaign due to a right quadriceps injury. The messaging around the injury and his potential return was muddled. He was medically cleared by team doctors late in the season, but continued to experience some pain and sought outside opinion from his own medical team before making any decisions.

A few weeks before the start of the playoffs, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Spurs held a players-only meeting to implore Leonard to return for the postseason.

Wojnarowski described the meeting as “tense and emotional at times,” with several teammates “expressing frustration and confusion over a growing divide that has created significant tension between Leonard and the Spurs.”

Leonard ultimately didn’t play again and reportedly requested a trade from the Spurs during the offseason. He wound up being dealt to the Toronto Raptors, who won an NBA title in his lone season with the club.

Before the end to his run in San Antonio, Leonard established himself as one of the best players in the league during his first six seasons with the Spurs. He made the All-Star team in 2015-16 and 2016-17, led the team to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2013 and 2014.

Leonard was named MVP of the 2014 NBA Finals when he averaged 17.8 points on 61.2 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the five-game series against the Miami Heat.

Wednesday marked Leonard’s 14th career game against the Spurs. He scored 26 points in 36 minutes to lead the Clippers to a 109-102 victory.

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