The Los Angeles Clippers easily defeated the San Antonio Spurs 119-97 last week.
Given that this was a match-up between two squads that have struggled mightily in the early going so far, the stakes for this outing weren’t particularly high. But it did give everyone an opportunity to look back on Clippers star Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Leonard played for Popovich and the Spurs for a seven-year stretch between 2011 and 2018. They won one championship together, before the relationship disintegrated.
From there Leonard and his representatives forced a trade from San Antonio to the Toronto Raptors, where he won another title and Finals MVP. He then immediately left that team for L.A. – which in turn prompted a legendary revenge move from Raptors team President Masai Ujiri.
So given all that history, how does Leonard feel about Popovich? Especially given how tense things got between them during the end of the Spurs run?
He answered that question this past week.
Kawhi Leonard on Gregg Popovich: “He’s a great coach. One of the best coaches I had. We’ve been in too many battles to have a scar in our relationship.”
“Can you tell us what you said on the court?”
“Nah, you know I don’t tell what goes on on the court. Maybe if you ask him.” pic.twitter.com/GlSUPAepdJ
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 20, 2022
“He’s the reason why I’m the player I am today… built that foundation, showing me winning basketball,” Leonard said.
“He’s a great coach. Still one of the best coaches I’ve had. We’ve been in too many battles to have a scar on our relationship.”
This actually isn’t the first time Leonard has been asked about playing for Popovich. He was also quizzed about it when it came to suiting up for Team USA in the last Olympics.
Popovich, for what it’s worth, has also spoken quite openly about his relationship with Leonard.
At this juncture enough time has passed for everyone to move on.
— Game 7 (@game7__) November 20, 2022
Obviously the way things ended between Leonard, the Spurs and Popovich weren’t ideal. The fact that Popovich’s wife was dying right around the time everything was popping off only added further tension to the proceedings.
But in the end, it seems like they always maintained a healthy respect for one another.
Leonard is right – Popovich is a big reason why he became the championship-caliber player he ultimately is today.