Spurs coach blasts Pachulia for Leonard's exit

LOS ANGELES • San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich lashed out at Golden State Warriors centre Zaza Pachulia on Monday, blaming the Georgian international for dangerous play over the incident that has ruled his star forward Kawhi Leonard out of Game Two of their National Basketball Association Western Conference Finals.

Leonard hobbled out of Sunday's defeat in the third quarter, after Pachulia followed through as he attempted to close down the Spurs star who was going for a jump shot.

Leonard had helped San Antonio gain a commanding 78-55 lead in Oakland when he limped off with an ankle injury. Golden State later rallied to snatch a dramatic 113-111 win for a positive start to the series.

Leonard had said he thought Pachulia's play was not intentional.

But Popovich was in no mood to accept that version of events, saying: "I'm not a happy camper. A two-step lead with your foot close out is not appropriate. It's dangerous, it's unsportsmanlike, it's just not what anybody does, to anybody else."

NOT BLAMELESS

It can't just be, 'Oh it was inadvertent. He didn't have intent.' Who gives a damn what his intent was? You ever heard of manslaughter? You still go to jail if you're texting and you kill somebody.

GREGG POPOVICH, Spurs coach, who is calling for Pachulia to be punished.

He then accused the former Dallas Mavericks centre of having a history of foul play: "This particular individual has a history with that kind of action.

"You can go back and look at Dallas games, where he got a flagrant two (foul) for elbowing Patty Mills. There was a play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm, and could have broken his arm."

He suggested he believed Pachulia should face disciplinary action regardless of intent.

"It can't just be, 'Oh it was inadvertent. He didn't have intent'," he fumed. "Who gives a damn what his intent was? You ever heard of manslaughter? You still go to jail if you're texting (when driving) and you kill somebody.

"All I care about is what I saw and what happened. And the history there makes me very very angry."

His rant, while undoubtedly coming from a place of extreme frustration, also comes with an additional benefit. It takes all the attention off the San Antonio players, and puts it squarely on his shoulders.

Pachulia, 33, has insisted that he had not meant to injure anyone in the incident.

"It doesn't bother me," he said of how Popovich characterised him. "That was the right defence from my side to challenge the shot. I wish he hadn't landed on my foot, and honestly I had no idea he had landed on my foot until I turned back and he was already on the ground.

"I don't agree with the calls that I'm a dirty player. I'm not a dirty player. I just love this game, and I play hard."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'Spurs coach blasts Pachulia for Leonard's exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe