“Who gives a damn about intent? Ever hear of manslaughter?”
Those were the words of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on Monday when asked about the Golden State Warriors Zaza Pachulia and his closeout play on Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard that wound up injuring Leonard and forcing him from Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The play in question occurred in the third quarter of the Spurs 113-111 loss to the Warriors Sunday afternoon when Leonard went up for a jumpshot and came down on Pachulia’s foot, who was closing out. A foul was called and Leonard was able to hit both free throws but then left the game and did not return. His status for Game 2 is uncertain but he is likely out, per Popovich.
Popovich talked about the questionable history of Pachulia — including an incident in February 2016 where he, “took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas… could have broken his arm.”
“All I care about is what I saw. All I care about is what happened. And the history exacerbates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry,” Popovich said in regards to Sunday’s play.
Popovich went on, “Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas and he and David got into it.”
West, speaking to reporters, was asked about Popovich’s comments and said, “Zaza’s my teammate. He plays hard, we’re just trying to win.”
“Just a tough play man.”
Pachulia has committed 18 flagrant fouls and been assessed 55 technicals over the course of his 13-year career.
“No response,” Pachulia said when asked about Popovich’s comments. “I have a lot of respect for Coach Pop and their organization.”
The NBA’s video rulebook states, “Defenders may not move into the landing area of an airborne shooter… Whether intentional or not, this is a dangerous play and it will be penalized.”
Popovich called the play, “A totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to it. And Kawhi’s not there.”
WATCH Pachulia’s response here: