San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich praised LaMarcus Aldridge, but it turned into a dissection of Kawhi Leonard, according to the public eye.
LaMarcus Aldridge maybe played his best postseason game with the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2. He followed a 14 point (5-for-12) performance with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists on 11-for-21 shooting. This carried the Silver and Black for a while, until Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson unleashed their shooting prowesses in the fourth quarter and sealed this game.
Aldridge was not just spectacular against the Golden State Warriors but for most of the 2017-18 season. Most times he led the team in scoring, finishing with 23.1 points per game — one of his highest season averages ever.
After Monday’s loss, head coach Gregg Popovich praised Aldridge in what appeared as usual comments for a star player’s prolific performance, as Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News noted.
Parse this: Popovich says he “can’t imagine being more proud of a player” than he is of Aldridge, who he praised for “fighting through adversity and being there for his teammates night after night after night.”
— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) April 17, 2018
Popovich being proud of Aldridge does not seem like a headline. Neither is “fighting through adversity.” The Spurs faced this with injuries throughout the 2017-18 season — consistently seeing players leave the lineup.
However, fans with a keen eye (even Finger who says “Parse this”) took this as a criticism of Kawhi Leonard; his absence was arguably the majority of their “adversity,” with the speculation on his status. Not “being there for his teammates” became a subject of Game 1 and 2, as well, so did Popovich want everyone to read between the lines?
It would be praise if he didn’t include the being there for his teammates part. That part is a clear shot at Kawhi for not even being there on the bench
— Tanking (@InQuinnWeTrust) April 17, 2018
Haters will say it’s a shot at kawhi. Haters are correct.
— Asad Ali (@asad_alliii) April 17, 2018
I’ll take that as genuinely being praise of LMA who has taken most all blame since last year’s playoffs.
— Kruger (@TeutonSF) April 17, 2018
How can it be a shot at Kawhi, if Pop told him to rehab in NY?
— Jacob (@jacobdm17) April 17, 2018
So you're telling me the you think the BLUNTEST man in the enter association is trying to subtly shade his own player.
— Kaitlin Casanova (@KaitlinSwift21) April 17, 2018
He wasn't fooling anybody with that shade ???
— Mia Dowd (@Princess_Mia_95) April 17, 2018
R.I.P. Kawhi Leonard’s next team.
— Tuve's Tongue (@TuvesTongue) April 17, 2018
Fans seem divided on Popovich’s meaning, so let’s just take it as he said it: Praise for Aldridge. Was the “adversity” about his issues from the 2017 offseason, which was not as publicized as Leonard’s saga?
None of these comments will mean anything toward the Leonard situation until he signs an extension with the Spurs or leaves the team via trade or free agency. The 2018 offseason is not far away, so will a resolution happen sooner than later?