National Basketball Association (NBA) San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich urged home fans to stop criticizing “former students” Kawhi Leonard during a game.

Popovich made the unusual move of taking the microphone during the Spurs’ 2023-2024 NBA regular season home game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Frost Bank Center in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., on Jan. 23 (local time).

After the Clippers’ Leonard made one free throw with just over three minutes left in the second quarter, Popovich grabbed the in-arena microphone and said, “Can everybody stop booing and let this guy play,” adding, “This is not who we are. Please stop booing.”

Leonard was once the darling of San Antonio fans, but now he’s the target of boos.

He played seven seasons in a San Antonio uniform, starting in 2011-2012.

Up until the 2016-2017 season, he was a key contributor for San Antonio, averaging 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 74 regular-season games.

He was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2014 Finals, Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016, and an All-Star in 2016 and 2017.

However, after a 2017-2018 season in which he was limited to nine games due to injury, Leonard had a falling out with the organization during his rehabilitation and eventually decided to move on, joining the Toronto Raptors.

After leading Toronto to a championship in the 2018-2019 season, Leonard was traded again in 2019, this time to the Clippers, where he has played ever since.

His departure from San Antonio was met with friction from his former teammates and team brass, and his silence and lack of explanation of the situation led to a series of trade rumors that earned him the dislike of fans.

According to ESPN, Popovich’s remarks deflated the momentum, but the crowd soon became more enthusiastic and booed Leonard.

Boos followed every time Leonard touched the ball, and other Clippers players, including James Harden, were also booed, ESPN said.

The Clippers went on to defeat San Antonio 109-102. Leonard led the way with a team-high 26 points in the win.

The Clippers, who improved to 6-7, are 10th in the Western Conference, while San Antonio (3-12), which lost its 10th straight, dropped to the bottom of the standings.

“If I don’t put on a San Antonio uniform (again), it’s probably going to be booed my whole career,” Leonard said after the game, adding, “San Antonio fans are the best fans in the league. They’re very competitive,” he said. 메이저사이트

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