Gregg Popovich isn’t shy about critiquing his players when warranted, though he has worn proverbial kid gloves when discussing Kawhi Leonard, the biggest star who ever jilted Pop’s Spurs program. Leonard doesn’t have a single real beef to his name, at least that we’ve heard about. So a tiny, little exchange over leadership over the past week, as explained in detail by Matt Ellentuck, is worth exploring.
The upshot is that Pop said Kawhi wasn’t a leader on the Spurs, while Kawhi says he led by example, so when he was absent in 2017-18, Pop must have forgot. Absent in this discussion is the specter of the ur Spur, Tim Duncan. If Pop can claim Kawhi was no leader, what does that say about the greatest Spur ever? After all, wasn’t Kawhi molded to be a modern Duncan in every way including temperament and leadership style?
Will Pop now claim that Manu and, I don’t know, Bruce Bowen were the real leaders of the 2000s Spurs? Of course not. Duncan was the stoic core of the team. His earnest hard work, seriousness, and willingness to be coached despite being a top-5 all-time player gave the Spurs their identity. He was obviously the team’s leader. But when you are a stoic leader as opposed to a vocal leader, presence is required and excellence is preferred. Kawhi was neither present or excellent last season. Hence, a leadership vacuum that Pop references.
The real issue here is that Pop wanted so bad for Kawhi to be Duncan that when he fell short the whole essence of Kawhi’s value (and by extension that of the Duncan model) came into question. We know Pop after almost a quarter-century of coaching in the NBA. Kawhi was the perfect Popovich star until last year. That he dismisses Kawhi’s leadership qualities now says more about his specific disappointment with how Leonard left than it speaks to Kawhi’s style while in San Antonio.
That, or we’ve read entirely too much into a few comments from two men who rarely talk about such matters and we should all move on. [shrug]
Bucks 107, Hornets 110
Timberwolves 102, Cavaliers 95
Rockets 131, Wizards 135 (OT)
Spurs 108, Bulls 107
Celtics 124, Pelicans 107
Pacers 121, Jazz 88
Magic 110, Warriors 116
On NBA TV:
Lakers at Nuggets, 9 p.m. ET
Selections from League Pass:
Knicks at Pistons, 7 p.m. ET
Raptors at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. ET
So, resident genius Jon Bois and Felix Biederman of Chapo Trap House fame teamed up for a five-part history of mixed martial arts titled Fighting in the Age of Loneliness. The first episode is out. It’s so good.
Zion Williamson has ascended to No. 1 in Ricky O’Donnell’s NBA mock draft, with Cameron Reddish No. 2 over R.J. Barrett.
The West remains extremely bunched up. I wrote about five potential league-wide impacts if that holds, including most of the best prospects going to the East.
Why the Celtics can’t trade for Anthony Davis this season.
Is there event a Markelle Fultz trade market? I’d argue that literally any team could take him on in the right deal.
Matt Ellentuck on De’Aaron Fox’s breakout year.
John Schuhmann assess playoff chances at the quarter pole.
An argument that the Grizzlies need to get Mike Conley some playmaking help.
Caitlin Cooper wrote about Doug McDermott being underused by the Pacers and then McBuckets had his best game of the season in a big Indy win. Caitlin is one of the smartest Xs and Os writers working.
On the unbearable toughness of the Clippers. Dan Devine makes a killer point about how not having any bad players can make up for not having any great ones.
DeMarcus Cousins is looking to return to the court after Christmas.
The Lakers have been struggling with the little things lately, and that’s been a big problem.
Alex Wong talked to Russ Bengtson about sneaker culture and more on his podcast. Two GMIB faves.
This SLAM cover starring Steph Curry and some of Oakland’s finest is too good. (The story is good, too.)
And finally, speaking of GMIB faves: big congrats to the Washington Post’s new national NBA writer Ben Golliver, who started at Blazers Edge years ago, did some work at SBNation.com and has built himself a success rocket to the top. Cheers.
Be excellent to each other.