All hail the true King!
As I’ve mentioned before, this NBA offseason has me practically giddy with all it’s drama and unexpected developments. The other night when I first saw the Kawhi to Toronto rumors, I thought, “Nah, it can’t work with the salaries, plus there isn’t anyone Toronto would give up that Pop would want back.”
Not so fast. I forgot this was Greg Popovich we were talking about. Actually to clarify, this was Angry Greg Popovich we were talking about. And he wasn’t about to let a flea named Kawhi Leonard hold him and his gold standard franchise hostage.
Yup, the same Kawhi Leonard that was made by Greg Popovich. The same Kawhi Leonard who played all of nine games for Pop and his Spurs last year. The same Kawhi Leonard who ignored pleas from the organization and teammates to try and suit up and help them down the stretch, dismissing their cries for help. And the same Kawhi Leonard who on top of all that had the audacity to insinuate that somehow it was the Spurs who had caused and exacerbated both the injury and the slow healing process.
And now Kawhi Leonard was going to dictate to Pop where he would play this year? I don’t think so. Pop did the superficial dance with the Lakers, knowing full well that the salary cap mismatch and lack of a reasonable return would make a deal there near impossible. But even if that had not been the case, there’s NO WAY Pop was sending Leonard to the Lakers. Really? So he could watch him team with LeBron and torment San Antonio’s loyal fans all next year, and perhaps for years beyond?
Nope, Pop needed to send a message, and boy did he send a strong one.
“I’m sorry, Kawhi, did you say you wanted to play in Los Angeles? Oh, my bad, I just traded you to Toronto. And not only that, but I got their best player in return for you. Don’t forget your parka and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out of town. Ingrate.”
The headlines about Kawhi not being happy? You bet your ass he’s not happy. And I couldn’t be happier. After all, given the choice between Kawhi being happy and SportsAttic receiving yet another gift of intriguing joy this incredible NBA offseason, we’re going with Unhappy Kawhi every time!
North of the border it is for Mr. Leonard. I’m sure the sub-zero temperatures will be ideal for him to heal that bum leg of his that cost him pretty much all of 2017-18, not to mention his reputation as a good teammate and supposed Top 5 talent in the league.
Now he’ll get to spend his walk year trying to reestablish that Top 5 handle (SportsBro Note — he was never a Top 5 guy. Pop and the Spurs system only made it appear that way. An absolutely great defender and much improved offensive player, but let’s see how it all works now, surrounded by that band of postseason underachievers that got their Coach of the Year winner fired less than 60 days ago) north of the border.
I’m thinking this attempt at a power play just cost Leonard $60 million in free agency dollars next summer. Isaiah Thomas to the Nuggets 2.0, anyone?
Because, you see, you just don’t mess with Greg Popovich. There’s a reason he’s revered around the league by everyone from fellow coaches like Steve Kerr, to the big stars like LeBron, and down through the end of the bench wonks who will gladly leave money on the table for a spot on his roster. He is the man.
And we are only scratching the surface of Pop’s bad-assery on this deal, too. Because not only did he sink the sock full of nickels into the back of Kawhi’s head by sending him off to Raptor-land, but he actually strengthened the Spurs while he was at it. This is why Pop is in a class by himself.
In the league where it’s understood that to make a title run you need multiple stars, building your team around DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge (and don’t think Aldridge didn’t just pucker up a bit himself remembering his own temper tantrum last season, as he watched Pop unleash his fury on Kawhi) is a solid first step.
Then you add in Pau Gasol and a lot of athletic young talent on the Spurs roster and all of a sudden I’m thinking San Antonio may be relevant and dangerous again in the West. And if not necessarily this year (call them a five or six seed that no one wants to face come next April, methinks), they’ve now got building blocks to go recruit that third star next summer from an upcoming free agent class that literally the entire league is drooling over.
Okay, and we’re still not done throwing rose petals at Pop. Sit back and admire how deftly he extricated himself from franchise icon Tony Parker in the most gracious and classy manner possible. No sulking and feuding from a guy who’s diminished talents are recognized by everyone (except Michael Jordan apparently). Nope, simply a professional parting of the ways and lots of mutual respect.
So there’s Pop wishing Parker all the the best as he limps off to end his career wasting MJ’s money in Charlotte. And the soon to be retired Manu Ginobili will likely be more visible than ever going forward for the Spurs, both as a local goodwill ambassador in San Antonio, as well as consigliere to Pop, helping identify and sign top international talent. I’m telling you, the guy’s a maestro.
Lastly, he’ll now settle in and deal with DeRozan’s disappointment over being sent packing by the Raptors. By the time the two of them have finished whatever rare bottle of cabernet Pop uncorks for the occasion, DeRozan will be all in on the Spurs system and ready to rock in his new home.
Pop is amazing and awesome. Pop is smart, appropriately sarcastic, and funny. Pop is sophisticated and shrewd. World class and best in the business. What more can we say? He’s simply The King!